Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

"Work Stimulates You to Think about Your Future": The Importance of Employment during Social Integration from the Perspectives of Young Somali Men Living in Australia and USA

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

"Work Stimulates You to Think about Your Future": The Importance of Employment during Social Integration from the Perspectives of Young Somali Men Living in Australia and USA

Article excerpt

Abstract

This is a qualitative study investigating the importance of employment for young Somali men living in Australia and USA. The study, based on 30 young men participants, explores their experiences and perspectives about the role of employment during the transitional period of social integration into the receiving countries. The paper also compares young men's experiences and perceptions of the importance of employment with their parents' experiences. Scholarly findings on refugee employment are compared to the observations discussed in this research. Some differences between the young participants and their parents have emerged, yet, most of the respondents shared similar views about the importance of employment.

Key Words:

Somali, young men, parents, employment, integration, Melbourne, Minneapolis.

Introduction

People have been on the move since the beginning of human existence (Berry, Phinney, Sam & Vedder, 2006). The movement of ethnically, racially and religiously diverse migrants across continents is a relatively new phenomenon, and has been on the increase since the beginning of the twentieth century (Binder & Tosic, 2002). This presents "both opportunities and challenges for migrants, and receiving societies alike" (Berry et al., 2006: 1). Some of these people migrate voluntarily, hoping for a better life, but many are forced to migrate because they face persecution due to their beliefs, political opinions, or membership in a particular social group (Binder & Tosic, 2002).

Along with the nomadic way of life that still remains in the Somali blood, people are afflicted with prolonged civil war which creates hardships and the need to move. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled from their homeland seeking a refuge and shelter in countries such as Australia and the USA. Due to ongoing violence and conflict,

Somalia remains one of the countries generating the highest number of displaced people and refugees in the world. There are more than 1.4 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Somalia while over 560,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring and nearby countries (UNHCR, 2010 online)

The paper draws on the findings from my 2011 PhD thesis and, in doing so, presents a story of the experiences of young Somali men who have fled Somalia and are now living in the Australia and the USA, explaining their perspectives of the importance of employment in their receiving countries. The overall aim of this paper is to investigate and compare the perspectives and experiences of young Somali men living in Australia and the USA in relation to the importance of employment during their social integration. The specific objectives are to:

1. Identify young Somali men's experiences and perceptions of the importance of employment in Australia and USA.

2. Identify their parents' perceptions of the importance of employment in contrast to young people's point of view.

The paper commences with a brief literature review which provides the context for study. Next, the methodologies used in the study are explained, describing briefly Somali community profiles in Melbourne and Minneapolis. The qualitative findings are discussed and focus on young men's experiences and perceptions of the importance of employment in Australia and USA. The paper specifically explores the importance of employment in fulfilling an individual needs, health and wellbeing, understanding cultures and developing negotiation skills and language acquisition, preventing crimes and providing a sense of direction, instilling a sense of belonging and providing positive role models.

Literature review

Having a job has constantly been identified as a major factor positively influencing many issues related to the social integration of refugees such as: self-reliance, restoring self-esteem and confidence, engaging with the host society, improving language and social skills and planning for the future (Ager & Strang, 2008; Phillimore, Craig, Goodson & Sankey, 2006). …

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