Challenging the refugee Gap - Labour Market Integration and Occupational Mobility among Syrian Refugees in Istanbul
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The Syrian crisis entered its fifth year of existence this year, displacing millions of people and forcing millions of them to search refuge in neighbouring countries. During this time, Turkey received the highest amount of Syrian refugees. In the current context, where Syrians cannot go back to their homeland because it is not safe for them to do so and resettlement through the UNHCR is done on a very small scale, integration is the only solution. A major catalyst for local integration is acquiring employment (Lundborg, 2013; Bloch, 2002; Cheung and Phillimore, 2014). Against this background, and with a specific focus on Istanbul because of the high concentration of Syrian refugees (330.000), this researched aimed to get an insight in the labour market experience of these refugees. In order to achieve this aim, desk research was carried out since January 2015 and fieldwork in Istanbul was conducted from February 2015 until May 2015. During these months extensive open interviews were conducted with Syrian refugees. Although literature suggests otherwise (Connor, 2010; Ortensi, 2015; Peromingo, 2014; Bevelander, 2011: Bloch, 2002; Cheung and Phillimore, 2014), the refugee gap is not universally applicable to Syrian refugees. They initially experience a downward occupational mobility due to the desperate need for employment (and income), depressions, a language barrier and being unknowledgeable about where to look for employment opportunities. However, subsequently, many respondents experience upward occupational mobility due to social networks and investments in destination-specific skills such as the Turkish language and understanding where employment opportunities can be found. Accordingly, many respondents, though not every respondent, are able to (professionally) develop themselves, make progression on the labour market and pursue a career in (highly skilled) employment commensurate with their skills, education and/or experience. Consequently, along with favourable working conditions, this results in satisfaction among respondents about their current occupations. On the other hand, bad working conditions and being employed in occupations not commensurate with their skills, education and/or experience are important factors for respondents not to be satisfied with their current employment situation. The satisfaction of respondents about their occupations influences their occupational mobility and desired occupational mobility, indicating the importance of agency in occupational mobility.