INVOLVE Conference “Employment or Work? The Reality of Migrants and Ethnic Minorities in Portugal”

  • Inspiration, News
  • 23.05.2024
  • Article

Centro de Informação Urbana de Lisboa (CIUL) hosted the conference “Employment or
Work? The Reality of Migrants and Ethnic Minorities in Portugal” on April 9th, organized
by Rede DLBC Lisboa as part of the European project “Involve”. This afternoon, marked
by experience sharing, featured speakers such as Maria José Covas Moreira (Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa – SCML), Ana Pais (Crescer), Rita Castro (Renovar a Mouraria), and Jorge Caleiras (COLABOR). Following an initial intervention by Rede DLBC Lisboa’s director, Maria José Domingos, introducing “Involve,” each participant presented the projects of their respective institutions, shared their day-to-day experiences interacting with these communities, discussed the realities they face, and highlighted the main challenges in this area along with available responses.

In the four speakers speeches, many common points emerged, especially regarding the
main difficulties faced by migrants and ethnic minorities. “They are mainly related to
the documentation they need, the requirement for Portuguese language skills, or
schedules that allow them to balance work with family life,” explains Ana Pais. Many
migrants “live outside the municipality of Lisbon, relying heavily on a deficient
transportation network.” Maria José Covas Moreira reinforces this idea, stating that
many of the traineesthey receive at Centro de Educação, Formação e Certificação (CEFC) “have a lot of difficulty learning the language, as well as the alphabet, since many use a different one.”

“Most of the people we assist are highly qualified. Bachelor’s degrees, master’s
degrees, doctorates… but the job offers are not,” says Rita Castro. Nearly 50% of the
migrants supported by the “Porta Aberta” project from Crescer had a university degree,
“but they cannot get their qualifications recognized in Portugal,” Ana Pais reiterates.
“Poverty is also not being able to choose”

Rita Castro reveals that at Centro de Apoio à Integração de Migrantes (CLAIM), Renovar
a Mouraria’s project, “someone may come in wanting to know how our Social Security
system works, with a question about Finances, or wanting to learn Portuguese, hoping
to understand how to enroll children in school. Needing help with health issues, with
the user numbers, whether they can have one or not… and employability emerges
here as a very important factor!”

In agreement, all speakers consider “work is an essential factor, and having tools that
allow entry into the job market is fundamental!” But difficulties abound… “Poverty is
also not being able to choose… between this job and other, the right school for
children, the right doctor, which transportation to use to get around…,” says Rita
Castro, asking: “For those without a home, how can they maintain a job? Have a
shower? Arrive on time?”

Work vs. Employment

The demographic issue is of great importance in this theme, as with an increasingly aging society, due to increased life expectancy, and a decrease in the number of young people, migratory movements are directly linked to the labor market, given the substantial increase in the foreign population of working age residing in Portugal. “Immigrants are also necessary from a demographic point of view,” clarifies Jorge Caleiras. “We cannot underestimate or sideline them.”

The researcher from COLABOR sheds light on the “work/employment” dichotomy. “This
distinction seems subtle, but it is not. Work refers to a much broader reality, it is any and all human activity. For example, when a woman is in labor, she is in the process of giving birth,” he says. “Employment is nothing more than a very specific form of work. It emerged with the industrial revolution and then became associated with the issue of work with rights, with assured social protection, etc… And it is this reality of employment that has been deteriorating.”

The daily lives of migrants involve “poorly paid, temporary, informal employment, with
little or no security and without access to any type of protection.” According to Jorge
Caleiras, this happens “despite being a net contributor community to Social Security.
They contribute more than they receive and have difficulty accessing public services
(health, education) due to linguistic, cultural and social barriers.”

And although there are success stories “both in wage employment and in self-employment cases,” unfortunately, they are isolated situations. The path to addressing all these difficulties has been under construction, and, for Rita Castro, it can only has one direction: “partnership, integrated work is really the way we should face challenges! Relationship with others and networking are essential. Only then will we be more effective and efficient!


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