Capitalising on asylum – The reconfiguration of refugees’ access to local fields of labour in Germany
Since 2014, several legal reforms in Germany have reduced bureaucratic barriers for refugees’ access to work. They were coupled with the introduction of more language classes and other skill-enhancing measures. This proclaimed aim of quickly integrating refugees in the labour market marks a remarkable discursive shift because in previous years numerous installed hurdles had hindered refugees from entering local labour markets. The article seeks to shed light on the structural relations and inconsistencies between the German asylum regime and local labour markets by employing Bourdieu’s theory of practice as a conceptual lens and by drawing from empirical observations from the city of Bonn. The author argues that the two fields–the“field of asylum” and the “field of labour” –were purposely kept separate from another in the past. Now their relations are reconfigured in complex ways, dominated by the largely restrictive logic of the field of asylum.Refugees’ overwhelming dependence on their status in the asylum process, their “legal capital”, limits rather than enhances their access to decent work. Moreover, refugees’ chances to position themselves successfully in fields of labour depend to a large extent on social networks and very specific local contexts.
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