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eSkills: helping immigrant women in Europe find employment
27 May 2010

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Sylvie Laffarge tells FUTURES why eSkills are increasingly important for immigrant women looking for employment in the EU.

FUTURES: Why are eSkills important for immigrant women?

Sylvie Laffarge: eSkills are increasingly required by employers. They are not just an advantage for employability, they are a necessity; people who lack basic ICT skills could find themselves locked out of jobs for which they are otherwise qualified. According to a recent study conducted among employers* only 10 per cent of all jobs in Europe will require no eSkills within five years, so the issue is clear.

eSkills are also needed to access job listings on the Internet. Without these basic skills, job searchers will find their ability to find appropriate jobs severely limited. Lack of basic eSkills can be a significant barrier to employment for immigrant women, among others. Through its community investment programme, Unlimited Potential, Microsoft has partnered for several years with NGOs in communities throughout Europe to tackle the problem of the traditionally low level of IT literacy among migrant women and other vulnerable groups.

F: What are the challenges in the labour market?

SL: Microsoft recently commissioned a study jointly led by the Technology & Social Change Group at the University of Washington and European research consultants D-O-T looking into the challenges facing immigrant women in the labour market, the role of NGO-driven community eSkills training and employability programmes, and public policies and other elements that could further promote social, economic and cultural participation of immigrant women in the EU.

Research survey data revealed that immigrant women clearly identify access to IT as critical to improving their social and economic status in the EU. There is a strong correlation between ICT skills level and current employment status: immigrant women with no or basic eSkills show higher levels of unemployment. The study found that after the home, community-based NGOs are the second most important place where immigrant women acquire eSkills and also where they access and use ICT. NGOs were also found to be an important network to access jobs.

Women now account for more than half of the immigrant population in most countries of the European Union. In many EU countries, the unemployment rate of immigrant women is more than twice that of native-born women and they are generally clustered in less-skilled occupations. In helping to tackle this challenge, Microsoft, several European researchers and nonprofit organisations presented the study on Immigrant Women, e-Skills & Employability in Europe during e-Skills Week, run by the European Commission in March this year.

F: What is Microsoft’s contribution?

SL: Microsoft continues to invest in eSkills development in Europe as it is vital to help create jobs and growth. In the current fiscal year the company has donated €25 million in cash and in kind in 32 countries to support capacity-building, in addition to backing 28 NGO community skills training programmes that will reach 5.4 million people over the next three years. Enabling the employability of socially excluded groups not only substantially benefits the lives of those who receive the training – it also benefits Europe as a whole as individuals move up the social and economic ladder.

* Source: IDC Economic Impact Study 2009 Technology & Social Change Group at the University of Washington and European research consultants D-O-T