State preparing to support hiring refugees

Tiina Kaukvere
, reporter
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Photo: Meelis Meilbaum / Virumaa Teataja

While officials have so far been of the mind that special measures will not be necessary to help refugees find work and that beneficiaries of international protection need to be treated the same as any unemployed person in Estonia, it is now believed additional support is needed.

Only 5 out of 60 working-age people brought to Estonia as part of the European migration plan had found work by April, the social ministry reports.

Experience of European Union members suggests it takes five years to integrate 27 percent of refugees on the labor market, while 39 percent find jobs in five to nine years.

“The main obstacles are insufficient command of Estonian, poor knowledge of work safety, difficulties adjusting to local society and work culture,” adviser at the employment department of the ministry Annika Sepp said.

Chairman of the board of NGO Estonian Refugee Council Eero Janson said that language proficiency is the greatest obstacle. “It could also happen that people are placed in local governments where they have no opportunities to use their qualification. One family has moved for this reason,” he said.

Head of support services for beneficiaries of international protection of the Johannes Mihkelson Center Juhan Saharov added that language classes currently take place in the middle of the day.

That is why the unemployment insurance fund is working on a new package of services called “My first job in Estonia” it plans to roll out this fall. “It is our goal to support employers who are prepared to contribute to helping beneficiaries of international protection find work quickly and become integrated into Estonian society faster,” Sepp said.

Member of the board of the fund Pille Liimal said that the agency plans to make salary support available to employers who hire beneficiaries of international protection. The fund will also compensate employers for translation expenses tied to working and pay for Estonian classes and training.

Salary support will cover up to 50 percent of pay but no more than the minimum salary. That equals support paid to employers who hire people who have been out of work for extended periods of time. The instrument is made available for the first year of employment.

Other benefits have not been clearly limited. Employers are eligible for €2,500 in compensation over a five-year period. “The extent of this used on translation or language training depends on the employer's need,” Sepp said.

“The plan is to complement the package of services with professional mentorship compensation for employers in cases where beneficiaries of international protection need additional guidance and support settling in,” Liimal added. The support period is four months.

The unemployment insurance fund estimates the new measures to cost €235,608 this year and next 85 percent of which would come from the European Social Fund.

Janson said that the most important thing is that the state is not just offering a salary benefit but also guidance support and money for training. “It will be possible to offer people language training in the work environment, which is something we've been waiting for for years,” he said.

Information from the police and border guard board suggests 111 applications for international protection were filed last year. Refugee status or additional protection was given to 65 persons, a family member's residence permit was issued to 16 persons. The first four months of this year have seen 36 applications for international protection, eight persons have been given refugee status or additional protection, with 13 family member's residence permits issued.

In addition there are people brought to Estonia as part of the European migration plan. Some of the 142 people placed in Estonia have already left the country, mostly to Germany. Estonia is prepared to accept up to 550 refugees over the next two years as part of the plan.