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Werkkaart: working together towards work

Mila van Rijs, Annemiek van Boeijen, Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer, Patrick van der Hijden, OpenEmbassy

Finding ‘formal’ work is an essential  element for  integration and is embedded in the new Civic Integration Act. The municipalities were made responsible for this in January 2022. However, finding formal work can be complicated, especially for those new to the country.

OpenEmbassy, the project’s client, found that informal or undeclared work is perceived as more accessible, and there is sometimes a minimal financial difference between a job and benefits. Directly discussing undeclared work with the municipality is problematic in a governmental context, and can lead to fines. Additionally, in these interactions, there is always a power structure.

How can an intervention take these structures into account?

We explored the complexity of the labour and integration system, focusing on newcomers’ individual needs and those of municipal civil servants. The municipality is responsible for guiding newcomers towards formal work, while informal work remains a taboo topic, especially in interactions with municipal officers who are obliged to adhere to the law. The project approach included in-depth and street interviews, literature and legislation reviews, and design methods to cluster and frame.

Werkkaart purposefully only tackles informal work indirectly. The design consists of 45 cards categorised in eight themes, an appointment booklet with an opportunity card, a manual, and a gameboard. The cards’ content comes from different inputs, and is based on the OpenEmbassy framework (2019), Strang et al. (2019). Werkkaart is currently available in different languages; Arabic, Tigrinya and Turkish.

The complex integration system perceives informal work as a taboo. In addition, the system is characterised by an ever-present power relationship, social structure, with little or no trust or biases between both parties. Furthermore, the municipality has to act according to the law. All sorts of assumptions are made and stereotyped around informal work and newcomers. However, conversations between municipal officers and newcomers also present many opportunities, especially as the new integration act is more inclusive and gives guidance towards sustainable work

Werkkaart opens the conversation for both parties with the goal of a more symmetrical conversation. The word symmetrical has deliberately been chosen, as a limitation is the inherent presence of a power relationship.

“I recognise having this feeling of not remembering what to say at the municipality”
Participant during an evaluation of Werkkaart