Online marketplace to help refugees find work

Online marketplace to help refugees find workimage

31 Jul 2015

Two students from Berlin have created a website to help refugees find jobs in Germany. Their online marketplace has been well-received, but it is only the beginning of a difficult journey for refugees and employers.

“Refugees have better access to the Internet than most people think,” David Jacob said in one of his many in German media over the past few days.

A smartphone is often the only connection between refugees and their home countries. That’s why Jacob and his fellow student Philipp Kühn have set up a new online job marketplace that is simple, yet efficient. Since Monday, refugees looking for work have been able to meet potential employers through this website:

People who go on the site find quite a broad array of employment offers: geriatric nurses, kitchen helpers, software developers, au pairs, car painters and even a workshop manager in a steel company. Internships are also offered. A hotel on the Baltic coast seeks a chef de partie to conjure up creative menus that put a smile on visitors’ faces – but for the minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($9) an hour.

The website, however, provides more than job offers: many companies interested in hiring refugees have provided contact details for refugees who are seeking employment.

Paying their own way

On the other end are applicants who introduce themselves. Most of them are refugees from Arab countries; a few of them are from sub-Saharan Africa. Some conduct a specific job search related to a profession, while others take whatever they can get.

“I don’t want to live without work. I want to pay my own way through life,” writes Houssam Y., who has been living in Hamburg for five months. The law graduate from Damascus is looking for an internship, a salaried position, an apprenticeship or any odd job – anything.

Among the refugees are highly qualified professionals, like two dentists, a urologist, an architect a biochemist and an English teacher. Many refugees state that, apart from their native language, they speak English or French. Most of them do not speak German very well.

The online marketplace aptly reflects the refugees’ dilemma in the German job market: they can’t get anywhere if they don’t speak German. On the other hand, a 25-year-old Syrian software developer would probably have little difficulty finding a job, even though he only speaks Arabic and English.

Contacts first, red tape later

Among the employers looking for new staff members is a nursing service run by Ralf Czudzuewitz in Braunschweig, in the German state of Lower Saxony. He told DW he has had difficulties hiring skilled workers in the care sector.

Last year, he wanted to hire two young women straight from Bosnia but he had to pay for their language courses, flights and accommodation. It would have cost him around 10,000 euros per employee, which is much too expensive for his small business. Now, Czudzewitz is using to find employees among the refugees living in Germany.

If his idea works, he has to go through the same process as the job applicants: he has to get throgh the red tape. The immigration authorities check residency status before they grant a work permit. In Germany, this is usually done after a person has resided in the country for more than three months – this also includes asylum seekers whose case has not yet been processed.

The employment authorities check to see whether a German or EU citizen could do the job instead of a refugee. Exceptions are only made in the case of highly skilled workers or professions with a shortage of workers.

The agency carefully examines potential employers: Has anyone filed complaints about them? Do they pay standard wages or minimum wage? Also, refugees cannot work for temp agencies.

Under construction

Kühn and Jacob said they wanted to do something that matters for their graduation project in communication design at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin (HTW). Now, they are planning to expand the website after they graduate, as it is still running as test program, a beta version.

That’s why they plan to post step-by-step instructions to help employers and applicants deal with the bureaucratic hurdles and to really come together. The site will also be translated into other languages.

students already promoted their website at refugee homes and they now hope that news will go around by word of mouth. The enormous resonance in German media will definitely help them.