Study title
The potential of neighbourhood-based social integration of young refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia and the implications for multilayer governance of social investment policy
Ref study 13830
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Forced migration
  • Neighbourhood
  • Integration policy
  • social investment policy
  • social assistance
  • young adult refugees
Geographical space
  • Switzerland
The concept of the "social investment state" is currently the key concept in the context of the transformation of welfare states in Europe. With the objective of "preparing instead of repairing" (Morel, Palier & Palme 2012, 25), it is a marked counter-project to the neoliberal paradigm.
Based on Esping-Anderson’s critique that welfare is provided through a (re)distributive lens of compensations and that the role of educational programmes, an active labour market policy etc. is currently being neglected, European politicians are continuously transforming the welfare state system towards a “workfare regime in so far as it subordinates social policy to the demands of labour market flexibility and structural or systemic competitiveness” (Jessop 1999, 355). But many challenges are marking the future of “actively mobilising the productive potential of citizens” (Vandenbroucke, et al. 2011, 7), and at the same time driving social welfare system towards professional, political, normative and moral dilemmas.
In the midst of this debate, Switzerland and its social assistance system were confronted with a huge number of refugees. And it was the social assistance services that were responsible for their integration into society and labour markets. It was obvious that this would be an overwhelming challenge, and refugees could not be socially and economically integrated in a sustainable way with the one-sided limitations of the social investment approach. After ten years, the employment rate of recognised refugees in Switzerland stood at 48% (and for provisionally admitted persons the rate is only 25%), and in 2016, the social assistance rate for refugees was 86% (SEM 2018). These difficulties mainly affect young adult refugees, and refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia dominate these statistics. Among young adults, for Eritrean asylum seekers, the social assistance rate in 2017 was above 85%; for recognised Ethiopian asylum seekers it stood between 75 and 85% (SH-AsylStat 2017).
This proposed research project focuses on three perspectives to the current situation in which for long periods of their youth, young adult refugees continue to rely on social assistance. Therefore it combines the social investment approach with research findings from other domains: (1) knowledge regarding the importance of local structures and the neighbourhood for integration processes, (2) findings regarding the relevance of the capability approach to social assistance for meeting the ambivalent requirements of the social investment state as a national strategy on the one hand, and the individual situation of young refugees on the other, and (3) the implications for multi-layer governance of the social investment approach where national-local as well as cross-level (state and non-state) actors are connected and where the municipal social assistance services consider themselves as “capacitating social services” (Sabel et al. 2017).
The research follows a mixed method approach and the focus is a) on the approximately 500 young adult refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia living in the Solothurn canton, (b) the social assistance services in the 106 municipalities, and (c) two municipalities in the canton which serve as case studies for the qualitative research. In order to describe the living situation, neighbourhood relations, social networks and use of state and non-state assistance, we will conduct a standardised anonymised questionnaire with the total of about 500 young adult refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia receiving social assistance in the Solothurn canton. For a deeper understanding of the local structure in the neighbourhood (2 case studies) from the perspective of the young adult refugees, the neighbourhood initiatives, volunteers etc., we will use ethnographic methods. Our recommendations will be relevant to the social assistance services in the municipalities and at the cantonal scale. Therefore, we will offer both, local workshops and a national conference.
The research team is experienced in all the research issues, and in both qualitative and quantitative methods. Furthermore, the research project offers two highly qualified refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia positions as research assistants. Therefore, the project also aims to generate new knowledge from the perspective of "insiders". In addition, through several on- and off-the job training initiatives financed by the main applicant’s Institute, the two junior scientists will be given the opportunity to qualify for an appropriate position in the Swiss labour market for highly qualified professionals. With this, the Institute would like to explore the role universities can play in the integration of highly qualified refugees.
Methods (description)
For the quantitative survey, we will develop a standardised written questionnaire in three languages: Tigrinya, Amharic, and German. SPSS will be used for analysis. The dimensions included in the questionnaire will be: housing situation, neighbourhood relations, social networks, use/perception of state and non-state assistance. Furthermore, we will collect statistical material from the social services to complete the quantitative survey with secondary analysis. For the qualitative part of the research we will use the case study methodology.
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 15.04.2020
Date modified 15.04.2020
Start - End date 01.01.2020 - 31.12.2022