Refugees still struggling to find work in NL; incubator helping them start businesses

Refugees in the Netherlands are still struggling to find work. Only a quarter of asylum seekers who came to the Netherlands in 2014 now have a job, according to a new report by social-economic council SER. Business incubator Refugees Forward is trying to help by giving refugees the training they need to launch their own successful businesses.

In 2014 and 2015 tens of thousands of asylum seekers came to the Netherlands, mainly fleeing war in Syria and Eritrea. Most of these asylum seekers were given residency permits for the Netherlands, but they are still struggling to find work, the SER said in its report Integration trough work, AD reports. Refugees are often at a disadvantage on the Dutch labor market - they don't always speak the language, their qualifications aren't always recognized, and they don't know where to go to look for a job. "Too little is happening to help them get working, therefore we are again sounding the gong. Let's try harder", SER chairman Mariette Hamer said to the newspaper. 

Refugees Forward is trying to help with its 4-month long entrepreneurship programs. The business incubator offers refugees business and cross-cultural training, then matches them with experienced professionals, advisers, and a network of private and public investors, to help them launch their own business. So far Refugees Forward helped launch 12 businesses and raised 300,500 euros in investments for its entrepreneurs. According to the organization, this resulted in over 97 thousand euros in increased income for newcomers, and 73,500 euros in cost savings for government welfare.

Next month Refugees Forward is hosting an event in Amsterdam, where the 14 latest entrepreneurs in their startup incubator will complete their program by pitching their new businesses. Companies range from a coffee shop, to a coaching center for young newcomers to the Netherlands. A judging panel will give awards for the best five-minute pitches with the help from the audience in attendance.

According to Hamer, these types of initiatives are great, but the Netherlands also needs a more centralized approach. "Many promising approaches for refugees have been developed at regional, local and sectoral level. However, promising initiatives do not find their way to other places. The result is a fragmented landscape with too many refugees on the sidelines. They are not participating now and the chance that they will do so at a later date is not realistic for most", she said to AD. "I miss the central government control. As a result, there is not enough knowledge exchange between the different projects."

According to the SER figures, a quarter of refugees who came to the Netherlands in 2014 now have paid work. Those who do have work often only have small jobs or part-time work. Two thirds of the refugees are on welfare.