Analysis of Work Insertion Social Enterprises as capacity building mechanisms for immigrants in the Basque Country

Caro, Antonia (2014). 'Analysis of Work Insertion Social Enterprises as capacity building mechanisms for immigrants in the Basque Country' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Although the impact of the crisis on the immigrant population in the Basque  Country has not been as powerful as in the rest of Spain, and has been felt later, in 2013 arose the apparent consequence of the economic situation: a decrease in the number of immigrants registered in the Basque country. Even though it is difficult to statistically verify these repercussions due to complex administrative processes (the system of census), it seems obvious that there is a connection between the administrative situation of the immigrant population and their capacity to face the crisis, intensifying the vulnerability of certain sectors of foreign population, namely of those that are in a less consolidated situation, and increasing a gap between them and the indigenous population at the cost of high rates of social casualization. Therefore, the crisis has turned into the complexity of the immigrant integration, aggravated by the worsening of their social perception as a consequence of the competition with the local population in determined labor market niches and certain social rights.

Work Insertion Social Enterprises (WISEs) are instruments that have been jointly developed by civil society organisations and policy makers for over twenty years in the Basque Country, where there has been strong socio-political support for the realisation of enabling environments for social economy, social inclusion, and poverty reduction. Therefore, Basque WISEs are consolidated mechanisms that aim at facilitating the transit of low skilled and vulnerable immigrants into the labour market, and achieving higher levels of wellbeing and social inclusion.

In an on-going research, based on the capability approach and using quantitative and qualitative methods and data, the author analyse WISEs as capacity building instruments both at the social and individual levels. From a socio-economic perspective, these initiatives face many difficulties as they have to compete in a liberal market with unfavourable conditions (e.g. low productive competitiveness due to low skills and disability among employees). In face of the current crisis, these difficulties have become even more acute as WISEs are also confronted with employment constrains when trying to introduce their employees into the regular labour market once they finish their training and insertion process.

In terms of its individual dimension, the insertion process promoted within WISEs is examined from the voice of all stakeholders involved:

-       heads of the entities that create and support the Basque WISEs;

-       the managers of the Work Insertion Social Enterprises,

-       production managers within the WISEs,

-       personal coaches and support staff co-responsible of the design and follow up of personal and professional development plan of immigrants in the insertion process, and

-       above all, immigrants.  

The insertion process offers a personalised and mentored development plan that seeks to empower the person at different levels (personal, health, economic, educational, social, political and cultural). Work Integration Social Enterprises must be understood as useful mechanisms to reach enhanced levels of personal empowerment and social and labour integration through the active involvement and participation of vulnerable international immigrants.

The proposed paper examines to what extent these mechanisms help enhance the capabilities and wellbeing of individual participants, and the difficulties and opportunities faced by both, WISEs and their employees.

Finally, a number of recommendations are made for a more empowering insertion process, and the sustainability of WISEs as capacity building mechanisms.

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