For this week, I decided to explore the question of how one might promote greater community cohesion.
Community cohesion can be described as a society where there is a common vision and sense of belonging by all communities; a society in which the diversity of people’s backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated and valued; a society in which similar life opportunities are available to all; and a society in which strong and positive relationships exist and continue to be developed in the workplace, in schools, and in the wider community. (DfCSF, 2007)
As a new resident of Austria, I have personally struggled to find my place in a community. Language barriers aside, there is a very strong sense that newcomers are not welcome. Finding a job, even in a relatively cosmopolitan city like Vienna, is quite a difficult task. And while my case isn't on the extreme end of the scale, and I do have a strong support network including a warm and welcoming family, and helpful friends, migrants, and refugees to the country may not be afforded the same privileges upon their arrival.
Integration of refugees and migrants into host countries is seen as a vital step towards community cohesion. In a study conducted by the European Parliament, looking at Austria, Germany, and Sweden as states which have hosted large populations of refugees over the years, there have been notable faults in their respective integration efforts.
Participation in the labor market is seen as the most important factor favoring long-term integration into society. Estimates show that the number of refugees to be integrated into the labor market varies between 1% in Germany and Austria and 2.2% of the labor force in Sweden. (European Parliament, 2017)
In the past, refugees found it more difficult than labor migrants to enter the local labor market. On EU average one in four refugees or 56% found a job after ten years. Refugees needed up to 20 years to catch up with the native-born. (European Parliament, 2017)
“Refugees needed up to 20 years to catch up with the native-born.” (European Parliament, 2017)
With the rise of anti-immigration sentiment and xenophobia, refugees in Austria struggle to find a place in their newfound communities. Studies have shown that efforts towards integration are failing refugees, thus hindering their financial stability and further alienating them from society. Rather than putting the onus on refugees to become functional members of their communities, it is now clearer than ever that citizens of these host countries need to make an effort to embrace their new residents.
The challenge I chose to tackle in this week’s exercise was to take a closer look at the struggles refugees face when attempting to integrate into society, particularly in Austria.
For this brainstorming session, I spoke with Iris Hoffmann, an MA candidate in International Security, with a special focus on human rights, from the University of Sciences Po in France:
DfCSF (2007). Guidance on the duty to promote community cohesion. [online] Available at: http://www.tedcantle.co.uk/publications/029%20Guidance%20on%20duty%20to%20promote%20community%20cohesion%20in%20school.pdf.
European Parliament (2017). Integration of Refugees in Austria, Germany and Sweden: Comparative Analysis. [online] Available at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/614200/IPOL_STU(2018)614200_EN.pdf [Accessed 2017].