The other day, I watched “Midnight Traveler,” a documentary about a family that was forced out of Afghanistan for political reasons. They recorded their day-to-day experiences during the long journey that ended with them resettled in western Europe.
The movie made me realize that they will continue being ‘refugees’ even after they have settled somewhere. I also realized that refugee assistance is not just about temporarily providing food and shelter, but about setting up the solid foundations for life after settling. Finding employment is a particularly important part of that.
When it comes to employment, companies can play a crucial role. Here I’d like to introduce some examples of initiatives in Japan and around the world.
Identifying and developing special skills: Examples from around the world
First, let’s look at some examples from around the world. In many countries, the government initially provides language lessons, occupational training, and job-finding assistance. The Danish government starts with skills-mapping based on a refugee’s education and qualifications, right from the initial acceptance stage. Depending on labor market demand around the country, recommendations are made for resettlement to the right area. Turkey, with cooperation from the UNHCR, has created a system to certify a person’s training and education obtained in the original country and supports refugees to obtain work that is aligned with their expertise.
Companies are also getting involved. Furniture giant Ikea’s parent company, the Ingka Group, has skills for employment programs for refugees that have helped 595 people in 20 countries (as of June 2021). Two-thirds of participants ended up obtaining work from Ikea or another company. In September this year, a coalition of 33 major American corporations in various sectors, including Amazon and Facebook, declared that they would create job opportunities for Afghan refugees.
Some restaurants and media are developing their businesses by using the potential of refugees. In Spain and Germany, websites have been created by and for refugees. In the United States, at the popular Global Café food court in Memphis, migrants and refugees from diverse backgrounds provide food from their own cultures. Efforts like these promote an appreciation for diversity in various communities and play a role in supporting refugee communities.
Japanese companies and NPOs are starting to offer employment support
From press release from People Port Corp. (in Japanese)
Various issues have been raised regarding Japan in terms of acceptance of refugees. Based on an announcement by Japan’s Ministry of Justice, 47 applicants were granted refugee status and 44 were granted special residence permits for humanitarian reasons in fiscal 2020, far fewer than other countries. A lack of human rights awareness at the Immigration Bureau has also become a serious concern. On the other hand, if we look at companies and NPOs we see some positive initiatives.
A first example is People Port Corp. which sells ZERO PC laptop computers that have been upcycled from disposed computers, using 100% renewable energy. Through occupational training, refugees learn how to refurbish computers and they are then hired as production staff. A second example is the non-profit WELgee. In 2017 it started the JobCopass program, which serves refugees, from education to company employment, and stays with them until they are settled in a new job. By June 2021 they had helped 12 companies to hire refugees.
When companies provide opportunities to find meaningful employment that makes use of a person’s skills, this is important not only in ensuring the human rights of refugees. For the company, accepting a diverse workforce can also lead to business growth, and enhance diversity and inclusion.
I really hope that employment support will continue to make refugees and companies, and indeed their surrounding communities, happy, and that such initiatives will expand even beyond what we see today.
“Engaging with employers in the hiring of refugees — A 10-point multi-stakeholder action plan for employers, refugees, governments and civil society,” UNHCR and OECD, 2018.
Miho Soga (Author), translation by Randel Helten
Photo by Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash
Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash