Can Social Entrepreneurship Contribute to Migrant Integration?

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1 Can Social Entrepreneurship Contribute to Migrant Integration? by George Isaias Social entrepreneurship has been gaining a growing attention in the last few years, as a way for addressing social challenges such as migration. The potential of migration in developing a competitive and sustainable European economy is recognised by both the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Stockholm Programme 1. This brief paper examines whether social entrepreneurship can contribute to migrant integration. Migrant Integration Migrant integration is described as a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States. 2 The integration process involves the adaptation by migrants to their new country of residence and their exercising of rights but also responsibilities. It also involves the receiving society, which undertakes the responsibility to create opportunities for the migrants full social, political, and economic participation. Employment becomes a key part of the integration process and is central to the participation of migrants and to the contribution they can make to the host society. The importance of employment in the integration process is highlighted by its inclusion in the Common Basic Principles for migrant integration in the European Union. 3 In many EU member states, there is a serious gap in employment levels between third-country nationals 4 and EU nationals. For example, the employment rate of third-country nationals aged was ten percentage points lower than that of the total population in the same age group at 1 COM (2011) 455 final Accessed at 2 As described in the adopted conclusions establishing the Common Basic Principles for immigrant integration policy in the European Union 3 Integration of third-country nationals (MEMO/05/290 (2005). Accessed at &guilanguage=en 4 The European Union defines third-country nationals as migrants coming from countries outside the EU and not holding the citizenship of an EU country. This group includes both persons born in a country outside EU and persons born in the EU but not holding the citizenship of a Member State. 1

2 the EU level, in 2010 alone. 5 Very often, tangible problems may create obstacles in the employment of migrants. Some of the problems identified include migrants lack of knowledge of the local language, the non-recognition of migrants qualifications which he/she acquired in another country, lack of training opportunities that provide skills demanded at the workplace, as well as lack of programmes that facilitate access to jobs. Furthermore, in recruitment, employers tend to give greater weight to an immigrant s in-country work experience sidelining any previous work/education experience abroad. Suggested solutions by experts 6 includes the provision of contracts that combine work and learning opportunities which allow young migrants to obtain various work, language and additional soft skills and help them see their own potential and the value of their work. Profession-based and on-site language trainings have been also recommended to ensure that host country language tuition for young migrants does not become excessive. On-the-job programmes can also be useful for those with work/education experience abroad needing additional certification. Early work experience through quality apprenticeships and work/learning programmes proves to be especially significant for migrant youth 7. Thus, increasing the number of young migrants in apprenticeships and other trainee schemes is one recommended strategy for targeting migrant youth unemployment. Social Entrepreneurship As argued by Isaias and Kaufmann (2011) the view that social entrepreneurship is and can be a force for social and global change has been supported by a number of organisations which work to further develop the field (such as Ashoka, Skoll Foundation, Schwab) but also by thousands of social entrepreneurs around the world. 8 5 COM (2011) 455 final 6 Handbook on Integration for policy-makers and practitioners. Accessed at 7 Ibid, p Isaias, G and Kaufmann, H.R (2011). Social Entrepreneurship: A new paradigm that can help Cyprus to address its challenges, p Proceedings of V International Scientific Conference, Part 3. Ural Federal University, Russia 2

3 The question which we seek to answer in this article is whether social entrepreneurship can contribute to the specific issue of the integration of migrants. To start with, there are no clear definitions of social entrepreneurship. 9 Practitioners, scholars, and policy makers debate the term, offering a great spectrum of definitions. Yet, although, there s not a universally accepted definition of social entrepreneurship, one of its main characteristics is the combination of a social objective with business methods. The European Commission identifies social enterprises as enterprises that have social objectives, do not pay dividends and reinvest profits in order to achieve their goals. 10 Social enterprises work for the less privileged people in society; many of them have been supporting the active inclusion of disadvantaged people, contribute to job creation, and often provide services which are socially necessary and useful. In addition to the social objectives, social enterprises also combine economic performance, i.e. they trade goods or services (differing thus from the philanthropic sector). Social enterprises often operate in the following three areas: Integration into the labour market (training and integration of unemployed people) Support services (e.g. childcare services, services for the elderly, local services and support for disabled people) Local development in disadvantaged areas Although some social enterprises offer permanent employment to those who are more seriously excluded from society, some others operate as springboards into permanent employment in another company offering temporary employment and training for a fixed period. These companies are also referred as work-integration social enterprises. Case Studies 9 Ibid, p Call for Proposals VP/2011/012, p. 3, European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Accessed at 3

4 The cases of two work-integration social enterprises, Acta Vista and Job Factory, 11 can help us better understand the work of social enterprises. Acta Vista Based in Marseille, France, Acta Vista is a social enterprise that works to provide training for all its employees, in the areas of carpentry, stone cutting and bricklaying for old buildings. It specializes in labour insertion and the restoration of heritage sites, in order to provide services of high quality, on-site work and the successful and lasting inclusion of its employees. The company addresses the unemployment issue by employing people between the ages of 18 to 65, mainly those excluded from society, recent immigrants and unemployed seniors. The employees work to restore and maintain cultural heritage sites. Their employment allows them not only to gain professional experience but also to integrate into society. A work contract with a maximum duration of 12 months enables them to have a paid job with all other empowering elements: they obtain status in society, rediscover the dynamism of teamwork, and restore their dignity. Throughout the duration of the contract, salaried workers' financial, health, housing and professional situation are analysed with the help of worksite managers, psychologists and local social service representatives, enabling the full potential of each person to be evaluated. The company also works with them towards a return to long-term employment with another company. The company benefits approximately 350 people per year. Job Factory Basel AG Job Factory is based in Switzerland. According to the company s estimates, Swiss unemployment among year olds is estimated at 9% when one takes into account unregistered, unemployed youth. The youth unemployment ends up with most youth ending up 11 Ibid, p Primary source: The Schwab Foundation. Accessed at 4

5 receiving social welfare benefits with possible tragic consequences for their further development and for society as a whole. Job Factory offers a second chance in the job market for teenagers and young adults who have had a rough start and provide them with the necessary qualifications. Every year, Job Factory offers unemployed young people a six-month internship in areas such as printing, computer, manufacturing of kitchen furniture, guitar manufacturing, and packaging. Eighty percent of trainees successfully complete their internships and find an apprenticeship, a job or pursue further education. The company benefits approximately 300 people per year. Conclusion From this brief discussion it is evident that social entrepreneurship has the potential to contribute to migrant integration. There are already social enterprises which are working to improve the employment situation of disadvantaged people and make it possible for them to undertake paid work. In particular, work-integration social enterprises provide disadvantaged people (including migrants) a paid salary in addition to training and counselling services during their transition period to another company and permanent employment. Acta Vista and the Job Factory are only two examples of how social entrepreneurship can contribute to migrant integration. Social entrepreneurship can provide the inspiration for new employment models, adapted to the situation of each host country and the employment needs of migrants themselves *George Isaias is the founder and director of the Synthesis Center for Research & Education Ltd, an innovative enterprise dedicated to the development of social entrepreneurship in Cyprus. He holds a Masters degree in Government & Politics from St. John s University, New York. Inspired by Muhammad Yunus and the social entrepreneurship movement, he is working to develop and promote social entrepreneurship in Cyprus, where he resides, through motivational speaking, research and training. He has been the key speaker in a number of European conferences on Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation. His key interest is the built up of entrepreneurial models that can address social or environmental challenges. 5

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