Passport for Work refugee workshop

Global mounting tensions and conflicts are increasing the influx of refugees in The Netherlands and (far) beyond.  

refugee influx








Figure 1. The influx of Refugees into the Netherlands

Source: Dutch Central Agency of Statistics - CBS (2022)


In The Netherlands, obtaining employment for refugees is a complex and challenging endeavour. To illustrate, there is an employment rate of roughly 30% among refugees. Furthermore, 60% of refugees are on the receiving end of (long term) social benefits. Main causes for this include the complex recognition of professional qualifications, language barriers and limited awareness among employers regarding relevant regulations.



To contribute to the labour market integration of refugees, Passport for Work organized a workshop for refugees who are currently making efforts to integrate into Dutch society by learning the Dutch language and by engaging with prospective employers. In the workshop, it became apparent that the participants (a total of 9) struggled with creating a suitable CV that is applicable to the Dutch labour market context. Most of the participants had both past work experience and educational diploma's, but the translation and recognition thereof is complex, subject to interpretation and a time-consuming process.

By engaging with the Passport for Work platform, and bypassing their reliance on formal work experience and qualification through the (self-)assessments the participants managed to create their skills profile ("skillprint"). This enables them to gain insight in their skills, and to use the skillprint during local job matching events with employers from the region. 

In the focus group, we analyzed several dimensions of the Passport for Work platform:

1: The role of the language barrier

In its current form, Passport for Work is in Dutch. While the ambition is to introduce additional languages, this is contingent on the project's future beyond the formal project period. As part of the accompanying decision making process, this focus group was important to establish whether this is a critical feature for future upgrades. In the focus group, Google Translate was used (despite its inherent margin of error) to gauge whether participants (whose main language were mostly Arabic and Farsi) were both able to understand the questions asked durign the assessment, and also to infer whether the questions made sense to them from a professional standpoint. As a back-up, translators were present and translations had been prepared on paper. However, in the session it became apparent both of these backups were not needed, and that Google Translate was acceptable for both answering and understanding the different, text-based assessment rounds. However, the situational judgement tests (comprising performed interactions between Dutch actors) and the explanations of the digital job coach "Guus" both could not be translated. While these are optional for completing the skillprint, for future iterations either subtitles or a voice-over need to be implemented for the language barrier to be eliminated completely.

2: The anglo-saxon nature of the skills assessment

Passport for Work is based on the US skills taxonomy O*NET, which is based on an anglo-saxon perspective on occupations. In the focus group, it was investigated whether this caused issues with regards to the different cultural backgrounds of the participants. However, participants did not report an issue with this, and, on the contrary, indicated that they were positive about being provided with requirements appropriate with the Dutch labour market context, which is entirely new for them. 

3: Reducing the barriers to employment

Finding a job is challenging for refugees for a variety of reasons. Inexperience of employers with hiring refugees, the perceived complexity thereof and the limited contact points are part of the explanation. To counter this, job markets (Vacaturecafes) are frequently organized in the Eindhoven municipality which job seekers (among which refugees) and employers can meet on an informal basis. By bringing their Passport for Work skillprint, the barrier to opening up a job-related conversation is reduced. As such, the combination of the online assessment with physical employer events (especially for this demographic prior to the addition of new languages) is one worth maintaining into the future.


About this resource

Ronald Lievens, UIA Expert
Eindhoven, The Netherlands Small sized cities (50k > 250k)
About UIA
Urban Innovative Actions

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

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