Across industrialised countries, refugees’ labour market participation remains low. Literature on the impact of refugees’ individual characteristics (such as gender) on their labour market careers has significantly expanded in the last decade. Yet scholarship addressing the significance of political and institutional factors remains limited.
To address this, my paper compares the relevance of the local policy environment, and of non-governmental organisations providing labour market support, for the labour market careers of refugees in the province of Quebec in Canada and in the region of Brussels in Belgium.
Both Canada and Belgium are federal, multilingual states and both the province of Quebec and the region of Brussels host a large proportion of newcomers to Canada and Belgium. At the same time, Canada is a traditional country of immigration, whereas Belgium still struggles to define itself as a country of immigration.
Conceptually, my paper draws on scholarship on the role of local government in immigrant integration, on the third sector in public policy, and on the labour market trajectories of refugees. Methodologically, it relies on deskbound policy analysis as well as more than 40 interviews conducted between 2015 and 2017 in the province of Quebec and the region of Brussels with staff of public administrations and non-governmental organisations involved in refugees’ labour market participation as well as with labour market active refugees.
My paper shows that refugees face similar political and institutional challenges in both cases. Firstly, there is a disconnect between refugees’ admission as humanitarian immigrants and lack of consideration for this humanitarian rationale in labour market support. Secondly, the complexity of the local policy environment means that support organisations are not well networked with each other, which in turn hampers their effectiveness. Lastly, these two challenges are exacerbated by budgetary and managerial constrain.
About the speaker
Adele Garnier is a lecturer at the Department of Politics, Modern History and International Relations at Macquarie University. She hold a PhD in Politics from Macquarie University and the University of Leipzig, Germany. She has conducted postdoctoral research at the Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work (CRIMT), Université de Montréal, Canada and the Group for Research on Ethnic Relations, Migration and Equality (GERME), Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. She has published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Refuge and WeltTrends and is the co-editor of Refugee Resettlement: Power, Politics and Humanitarian Governance (with Liliana Jubilut and Kristin Sandvik, Berghahn Books, forthcoming).