More than 85 per cent of female asylum seekers surveyed in a new study are unemployed despite nearly half having been job-hunting for more than a year.

Research published today by the Migrant Women Association Malta found that discrimination, a lack of work experience in Malta, language barriers, and lack of local references were the main factors locking respondents out of the job market.

The survey, carried out between August and December last year, interviewed 91 women from Syria, Libya, Somalia and Eritrea, all having passed through the asylum process.

READ: Four in every five asylum seekers live in poverty

Despite half having completed secondary schooling, and 20 per cent having a university education, nearly three-quarters of those currently in employment were working without a contract. Half were employed in cleaning services.

Project coordinator Ainara Chana highlighted the importance of employment to female empowerment and social integration.

The findings, she said, pointed to a need to abandon one-size-fits-all approaches to helping migrant women find work, stressing the many differences in background and circumstances between different respondents.

Ms Chana also called for education and training courses to take into account individual needs, as well as further efforts to tackle discrimination in the workplace.

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, speaking before the presentation of the findings, said efforts to promote the inclusion of migrant women were especially vital in the light of the multiple levels of discrimination such women often faced: on the basis not only of gender but of ethnicity and cultural background.

“We must ensure that their narratives are heard, to influence the development of sensitive and relevant policies,” Ms Coleiro Preca said. “In this way, we will create an inclusive approach, with long-lasting benefits for migrants, their families and our society. Our policies must be holistic and integrated, to ensure the dignity of migrant women.”

The President also appealed to the authorities to better regulate employment to ensure that both migrant and Maltese workers were not exploited in their work.

The new MWAM study follows research published by the Jesuit Refugee Service and Aditus Foundation earlier this year, which found a staggering 80 per cent of asylum seekers surveyed lived at risk of poverty, more than five times the rate in the general population.

The study pointed to high levels of unemployment among asylum seekers, with 45 per cent of household heads currently jobless, despite the majority having access to a work permit and in some cases social benefits.

The high prevalence of seasonal work meant that less than a quarter were in full-time employment year round, while only one of 17 households with two adults had both in gainful employment.

Meanwhile, a 2015 Eurostat study found that migrants continue to face high levels of discrimination even in regular employment. According to the study, 38 per cent of Maltese people would be uncomfortable working with a Muslim person, while 38 per cent would not accept a black colleague; both figures which compared poorly to the European average.

The seminar, which is implemented by the Foundation for the Promotion of Social Inclusion in Malta as part of the Working Roma Project, took place at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Malta in collaboration with the Migrant Women Association Malta.

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