According to an OECD report, since mid-2015, Europe has seen the arrival of a record number of asylum seekers. As a result, OECD started migration dialogues in cooperation with UNHCR, where they highlighted the importance of recognising integration into the labour markets as a process that would give invaluable assistance to economic growth and prosperity, including both the beneficiaries but also the host countries.
Although not all asylum seekers will be recognised as refugees, host countries will have to find ways to integrate an unprecedented number of refugees into their societies and labour markets. While access to the labour market may be restricted by administrative (e.g. work permits) and practical barriers (e.g. language), refugees have the legal right to work in all OECD countries (see further [link]).
Moreover, migrant workers is another target group which is increasingly important to national economies. A 2017 ILO report suggests that there are around 232 million international migrants throughout the world, of which 150 million are migrant workers. Migrants who are fully integrated into the labour market, can boost the income per capita of recipient economies by providing the labour and skills needed in critical occupations and sectors (see further [link]).
In the Republic of Cyprus, the latest official records show that there are more than 91,000 Third Country Nationals currently residing in Cyprus; of those, 9,769 are beneficiaries of international protection, almost 19,000 are occupied in housekeeping services whilst more than 22,300 have permanent residence permit. As a consequence, the project aims to satisfy a variety of groups under the umbrella term Third country nationals (Recognized Refugees, Resettled Refugees, International Protection Beneficiaries, Asylum Seekers, students, with work permit, Cypriot spouse).
Integration into the labour market of each country depends on a variety of issues as each country has different economic structures and cultural characteristics. However, there seems to be a pattern of problems key in many countries. Some of the main problems identified by employers in this process, is the lack of mechanisms to inform employers about work permits of TCNs as well as ways to recognise skills and qualifications. On the part of the prospective employees, the lack of language, labour laws and culture of the host country can result in lack of understanding of what is expected and create barriers to productivity. As such, having a national plan of action to educate prospective employees and link them to employers is crucial.
First Step operates within such general framework and utilises useful tools such as the EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals (See further [link]) for the purposes of vocational training courses, in order to help beneficiaries, reduce their time to access the labour market and achieve self-reliance.