Topic 5 Action points for hiring TCN women

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Hiring of TCN women

  • The skills and attributes of TCN women represent significant economic potential for receiving countries. However, for this to be fully realised, well-coordinated efforts by a range of actors and entities are required.
  • Employers, organisations, and other local actors must actively take into consideration the needs of this specific target group and implement a hiring strategy that contributes to TCN women’s economic as well as social integration, as the one cannot exist without the other.
  • The following Action Points offer significant insight on employers on where to start, in order to make a real difference.

Hiring of TCN women – Action list

While most EU countries are in line with the Geneva Convention related to the status of refugees being granted full rights into the EU labour markets, the case is often different depending on the status of a TCN. For asylum-seekers (that is, people awaiting the outcome of their asylum application), the rights and obligations differ widely across countries.

  • Create streamlined procedures for work permits and other necessary certificates based on clear administrative rules
  • Ensure that regulations are evenly implemented across the country and limit discretion at the local level
  • If multiple agencies are involved in the process of granting work permits or licences, enhance the co-operation between employers, employment services and immigration authorities
  • Provide up-to-date, comprehensive information to employers who want to hire asylum-seekers, refugees, and other beneficiaries of international protection, including step-by-step guidance and individually-tailored support, e.g. through telephone hotlines
  • Provide training to human resources staff on the requirements and rights related to employing asylum-seekers and persons benefiting from international protection
  • Offer legal information to employers, including through brochures, online information and dedicated “hotlines”
  • Establish information services for employers and compile knowledge databases on the administrative framework for refugee employment
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Not only does confusion about the different work statuses and potential work entitlements exist, but also uncertainty regarding the length of stay in the host country of asylum-seekers, refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection. Undoubtedly, this adds on the complexity of hiring and retaining TCN women.

The “refugee” status overall has a pretty secure legal status; however, some countries dictate that renewal should take place after some years. For other TCN statuses, uncertainty may be even greater with regards to their permit.

Adding to this are the policy changes in the host country, clearly something beyond the control of employers, which may alter the conditions under which different statuses of TCNs will be able to stay and thus work in the country.

  • Consider the potentially negative impact on labour market integration of issuing renewable residence permits for refugees and shorter residence permits for other beneficiaries of international protection
  • Mitigate the risk for employers investing in the vocational training of asylum-seekers and beneficiaries of international protection with insecure or limited duration status by creating schemes that provide legal certainty during the period of training
  • Inform employers about the working rights of asylum-seekers and beneficiaries of international protection
  • Make the case to governments on how legal uncertainty poses a barrier for the hiring of beneficiaries of international protection and for investing in further training
  • Assist TCNs and employers with information about work rights in the country
  • Did you know… data from a 2014 special module of the European Labour Force Survey shows that tertiary-educated refugees in employment in Europe were three times more likely to be in jobs below their formal qualification level than the native-born (60% versus 21%) and twice more likely than other migrants (30%).
  • TCNs come from a quite diverse socio-cultural background and are often high-skilled; they may have worked as doctors, nurses or researchers before fleeing their country.
  • This diversity of profile is both a challenge and an opportunity. It requires, as a starting point, to identify the skills that refugees already possess at arrival by taking stock of their formal qualifications, previous professional experience and, more generally, of their abilities and motivation.
  • Provide support for employers regarding skills assessment (including occupational skills and prior work experience) and ensure that these services are widely available free of charge or for a minimal fee
  • Improve processes and information on the recognition and assessment of foreign credentials/qualifications and of informal skills
  • Identify and address specific barriers refugee women may experience in relation to skills assessment.
  • Involve employers in the design and implementation of skills verification tools
  • Encourage the use of online tools, such as the EU Skills Profile Tool for non-EU (third-country) nationals:
  • Provide opportunities for refugees to demonstrate their skills and ask candidates to provide testimonials or character references, e.g. from social workers, sponsors or mentors
  • Be aware that refugees cannot be expected to provide certain background information/documents
  • Encourage employers who provide internships to provide references
  • Facilitate experience-sharing among employers regarding skills verification tools
  • Provide background information on refugees’ countries of origin, for example, data/fact files regarding the primary industries in that country, their work culture, etc.
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  • Following up on the previous topic, it is equally important to recognize TCN’s specific job readiness – consider for instance the knowledge of the host country language.
  • Language is one of the most critical host country specific skills that refugees need support to develop. Studies show that such training and support has been particularly effective for helping refugees to find a job, especially when provided within a workplace environment.
  • TCNs may need to get some information on host country’s specific practices (e.g. procedures and norms, organizational culture etc.). To achieve this, TCNs should have access to relevant professional training programmes, ideally provided in the workplace (e.g. internships, apprenticeships, on-the-job training).
  • Provide language training that is tailored to women TCNs’ skills, backgrounds, and specific needs
  • Provide vocation-specific language training and targeted professional training, ideally in a workplace setting
  • Provide financial support or loans for refugees who need to take driving lessons
  • Offer internships, mentorships and/or apprenticeships to give TCN women the opportunity to get a first experience in the host country’s labour market
  • Facilitate learning opportunities for TCNs on local employment practices and the work etiquette that is expected once employed
  • Establish referral systems among civil society organisations to exchange knowledge on other services available to improve refugees’ work-readiness
  • After the TCN’s skills as well as their needs for job readiness have been identified, the next step is to match their skills with potential employers and job positions.
  • This poses a challenge for several reasons: firstly, TCN women often lack the local network that will enable them to know about potential jobs that match their skills; secondly, employment offices may be unaware of the specific background and skills of TCNs and therefore not able to suitably identify TCNs with relevant posts; thirdly, TCNs may lack the knowledge about where to look for a job; and lastly, TCNs may live in rural areas, thus making it challenging to be able to commute easily.
  • In order for employers to make contact with potential TCN women employees, information about their profiles and their skills needs to be readily accessible (GDPR measures).
  • A great way to achieve this is through job fairs, a powerful tool to bridge the information gap that usually separates potential candidates from job opportunities.
  • Take into account refugees’ skills and local labour market needs when deciding on placement
  • Educate the staff to increase their awareness of TCN-specific issues and skills
  • Guide TCNS with potentially transferable skills towards related occupations
  • Facilitate better matching of available job opportunities with TCN women’s skills
  • Organise job fairs to match employers and TCN women
  • Reach out to TCN women by going beyond the traditional forms of recruitment, for example, by contacting civil society organisations working with them
  • Work more closely with public authorities as well as public and private employment services to better identify and maximise suitable work opportunities for TCN women
  • Develop or adapt online platforms to support employer access to the TCN pool of talent – see the example from Cyprus.
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Action 6 – Provide equal opportunities in recruitment and combat stereotypes

  • As discussed in the previous module topics, recognizing diversity and actively working toward building an inclusive work environment is of uttermost importance, and in the long-term, it benefits not only TCNs involved but organisations and entities as a whole, as they are able to have a wide pool of talent to choose from, to maximise their performance.
  • In the previous topics, the issue of providing equal opportunities in employment and retaining an inclusive work setting have been thoroughly discussed. You can go back and re-visit them at any time!

Did you know? Testing with fictitious CVs for job vacancies in many countries has revealed that candidates’ names matter. These studies have shown that in order to get invited to a job interview, a person with an “immigrant-sounding” name must write 3-4 times as many applications to get invited to a job interview as a person with a familiar-sounding name and an otherwise identical CV.

Action 7 – Prepare the working environment

  • Welcoming TCN women in an established workplace that is previously unfamiliar with having to work closely with people from diverse cultural backgrounds may pose a challenge.
  • To welcome and integrate TCN women into a workplace requires preparation and everybody – corporate leadership, supervisors, co-workers – needs to get on board.
  • Challenges often include other colleagues finding it difficult to communicate with TCN women due to the lack of language skills, or unsure how to approach them given their cultural differences.
  • Management may not be familiar on how to address sensitive issues such as cultural differences in workplace behaviours or communication styles.

Did you know? There is increasing evidence that being in contact with members from other ethnic groups reduces stereotypes, particularly when these encounters occur in a setting where people meet each other as equals and as part of a routine, e.g. in the workplace or at school.

  • Ensure that measures to support the labour market integration of TCN women complement measures for the employment of the local population, where possible
  • Develop a clear and balanced communication strategy with a focus on facts
  • Engage senior management in conveying to staff the rationale behind hiring TCNs
  • Provide staff with opportunities to get involved, via mentorships or teambuilding activities
  • Offer training to both supervisors and staff on how they can support refugees
  • Provide incoming TCNs with clear information on company policies and work habits
  • Find practical ways to support language acquisition
  • Apply policies addressing discrimination and harassment in the workplace

For more, visit the previous module topics.

  • Raise awareness about the importance of inter-cultural communication in the workplace
  • Provide guidance to employers on preparing the workplace for recruitment of TCN women
  • Facilitate dialogue between workers and TCN women before and during the initial phase of recruitment
  • Offer training courses on intercultural communication and different workplace cultures
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Action 8 – Enable long-term employability

  • The previous actions discussed are vital in introducing TCN women in the local labour market; however, integration support is a continuous process that local actors should apply, in order to ensure job safety and long-term employability of TCN women.
  • It is common that TCN women first connect to the labour market through temporary arrangements (e.g. internships, subsidised employment schemes, temporary contracts).
  • Transition to more stable employment and progressive career paths might require further support for employers and TCN women as their adaptation to the new working environment may take time.

Did you know? Data from Sweden suggests that low-educated refugees take more than twice as long as medium-educated refugees to be in employment; even after more than ten years of residence, their employment rates remain 20 percentage points below those of the medium-educated.

  • Provide tailor-made, preferably individualised integration support for TCN women that accounts for the fact that they may have a long integration pathway
  • Assist TCN women in obtaining the basic skills – especially language – to be able to contribute and be productive in the workplace
  • Provide dedicated case-workers to support companies employing TCN women for the first few months following their recruitment
  • Provide opportunities for continuous training and upskilling, incl. for those already in a job
  • Make sure that TCN women’s motivation to take on employment quickly does not conflict with the need to equip them with basic skills, and, in addition, align incentives accordingly for creation of sustainable employment
  • Support skills certification of employed TCN women
  • Support additional training and upskilling measures for TCN women in employment, including through more flexible work schedules where necessary
  • Inform supervisors on how they can support these women and which supervisors themselves can approach if they need additional guidance
  • Raise awareness among low-skilled TCN women of the need to strike a balance between working as soon as possible and acquiring the basic skills required for long-term employability
  • Ensure that mentorship opportunities for refugees accompany them in the long-term
  • The most common reason organisations hire TCNs is to achieve their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) indicators. While this may be a great motivation as a start, it may not offer a sufficient impetus for sustainable, long-term employment. Additionally, in times of economic crises, CSR are often the first budgets to be cut.
  • Making the case for hiring women TCNs becomes more feasible taking into account the skills shortage on a national level.
  • In addition, employers have stressed that refugees are often a particularly motivated and committed workforce. Removing initial barriers, and documenting and promoting the business case for TCN women employment for different types of companies across various sectors and contexts, is critical to create sustainable employment opportunities for all TCN women.
  • Lower the initial costs of hiring TCNs where possible, including through temporary employment subsidies or tax breaks
  • Ensure that low-cost upskilling measures for TCNs are available
  • Identify sectors that face or will face labour shortages in the future and outline how TCN women can contribute to tackling these recruitment needs.
  • Consider being a role model by communicating to other employers and to the public that there is a business case for hiring TCN women
  • Sign up for relevant initiatives, such as the European Commission’s “Employers together for Integration”, or your national Diversity Charter (available in different EU countries)
  • For small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), explore options for collaboration with other SMEs to better achieve economies of scale in supporting TCN employment
  • Showcase positive examples, for example through testimonies of employers and TCN women, and demonstrate how their specific skills have been used by companies
  • Gather employers’ experiences of how TCN employees have supported links to new customer bases or opened up new markets
  • Gather evidence on the experiences of employers in recruiting and working with TCN employees, and show what lessons can be drawn from these experiences
  • Advocate for and liaise with governments and research organisations to develop measurable indicators to obtain a better understanding of TCN’s contribution to the economy
  • Facilitate employers’ awareness that while hiring TCNs can be challenging, they stand to gain a lot if they hire a workforce that is diverse, adaptable and willing to learn
  • Establish referral systems among civil society organisations to exchange knowledge on other services available to improve TCN women’s work-readiness
Photo by Mikhail Nilov:

Action 10 – Coordinate actions between all stakeholders

  • While there may be increased interest from the part of different local actors to enable the labour and social integration of TCN women, it often happens that the actions are not coordinated among the relevant stakeholders.
  • A lack of co-ordination can lead to the under- or over-provision of essential integration support for TCN women’s employment, and also makes it difficult for both employers and TCNs to identify who their possible counterpart or resource person/authority is.
  • A key element in proper co-ordination is information sharing, with mapping the activities of each stakeholder an important first step in this process.

Did you know? In 2004, the Portuguese High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue (ACIDI) created National Immigrant Support Centres (CNAI); currently operating in Lisbon, Porto and Faro. Their work is supported by smaller, local offices throughout the country. See

  • Improve information exchange (e.g. via co-ordination platforms) and share information widely
  • Map the activities of different stakeholders
  • Facilitate the exchange of experiences and best practice
  • Facilitate employer access to information about the respective roles of the different stakeholders and how best to engage with them
  • Advocate and understand that the best interests of TCNs is not going to be met by any single organisation and that a coordinated effort is essential
  • Cooperate and join forces by making coordinated integration offers