Access and Barriers to Vet for Refugees: A Comparison of Austria, Denmark and Germany

Christian Helms Jørgensen, Hannes Hautz*, Junmin Li

*Corresponding author

Publikation: KonferencebidragKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) set a new negative record in 2018, with the highest ever number of 70.8 million ‘forcibly displaced people worldwide’ (UNHCR, 2019). Between 2015 and 2018, more than 3.9 million asylum applications were registered in the European Union (Eurostat, 2019a). Refugees have a high risk of becoming unemployed, or being forced to join with the expanding number of legal and illegal immigrants in the low-wage and low-skills employment and contribute to the dualisation of the labour markets (Heidenreich, 2016). This could intensify the social and political tensions and xenophobia over immigration in the receiving countries.
Therefore, in many European countries, vocational education and training (VET) is assigned a key role in integrating refugees into education and employment. A strong and attractive VET system is a key to decrease social inequalities and offset the growing dualisation of labour markets (Busemeyer, 2014). VET is decisive for the inclusion, education and employment of young people from disadvantaged families, who are not opting for higher education (Blossfeld et al., 2016). This is particularly the case for refugees who have often left behind their families, friends and social networks and have uncertain future prospects in the host country. VET provides specific skills that are relevant for the labour market, and offers an effective and viable pathway to employment. VET systems centre on practical and action-based forms of learning, and consequently refugees can acquire vocational skills with limited mastery of the native language. From their countries of origin, refugees often have practical work experiences that may be recognised in VET. In addition, during work-based learning in VET, refugees can enter into the labour market, which is the precondition for a self-determined life in the host country (Neuhoff, 2015).
Prior research, however, indicates that immigrants are disadvantaged in the education systems in Europe (Hillmert, 2013). Generally, immigrants have lower achievement and higher dropout rates at the upper secondary level and a higher risk of not being in employment, education or training (Eurostat, 2019b; Dicks at al., 2019). Especially refugees are in many European countries ‘extremely marginalised and as such tend[.] to be ignored by traditional VET and integration policies’ (Gag et al., 2013: 288). Moreover, the affordances of VET in relation to the refugees are not only determined by the established stakeholders in VET. The current ‘refugee crisis’ became a highly contested issue on the national policy agendas. Strong nationalist and anti-immigration forces questioned the previous humanistic position of established political parties. Schemes for integration, education and training of refugees were opposed by demands for exclusion, internment and repatriation. The outcome of these political upheavals affected the opportunities to organise effective measures in VET to integrate refugees, and makes it relevant to ask if the VET systems in the receiving countries are able to include refugees and support their social integration and transition to the labour market.
This paper examines and compares how the VET systems of Austria, Denmark and Germany responded to the arrival of high numbers of asylum seekers in 2015 and the subsequent years. The study explores the opportunities offered by VET for refugees, and the barriers that refugees encounter in each national VET system. The focus is on the issues of access and entrance requirements, support systems, special programs, language training, access to work-based training (apprenticeships) and certification. In the comparative section, the paper discusses the different capacities of the three national VET systems to include refugees. These capacities are taken as an indicator of the current strength of these VET systems in dealing with vulnerable groups and with the risk of labour market dualisation.
Antal sider2
StatusUdgivet - 2020
BegivenhedCancelled ECER 2020: Educational Research (Re)connecting Communities - Glasgow University, Glasgow, Storbritannien
Varighed: 25 aug. 202028 aug. 2020


KonferenceCancelled ECER 2020
LokationGlasgow University

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