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Emmaus Association’s pool of workers

Åland, Finland

Emmaus Association acts as a middle-man between unemployed immigrants and local people who require assistance with small tasks. Most of the clients are elderly people in rural parts of Åland and the tasks are often too small to be of interest to entrepreneurs. The association acts as the formal employer of the  workers involved and takes care of the administrative and legal requirements relating to their employment on a not-for-profit basis.

Immigrants get short-term employment through Emmaus Association

This social innovation was born when a Romanian beggar in Mariehamn told a local resident that he wanted to work and the local offered him small tasks in his home. They soon found out however that taking care of all the employer responsibilities is difficult for an individual person, and contacted Emmaus. Now Emmaus functions as the official employer of workers undertaking a range of tasks and their clients pay by hour to Emmaus (a non-profit association). Emmaus piloted the initiative in fall 2015 and has been working on it on a larger scale since January 2016.

From two brothers to 30 workers

The initiative started with two Romanian brothers wanting to work but, by summer 2016, 30 employees had been involved. The majority of the employees have been Romanian, but immigrants outside the EU have also been involved, as well as Åland-born people who are long-term unemployed. In total, these workers have completed 120 tasks (e.g. painting, gardening). Some of the workers have also gained longer-term employments as a result of references provided based on their involvement in the initiative.

Supporting two vulnerable groups at once

This innovation primarily addresses the challenges of integrating immigrants into the labour market.  It also addresses the challenges associated with aging rural populations as the majority of the customers have been elderly people in rural areas. The tasks these workers undertake are often too small to be of interest to enterprises but, thanks to Emmaus’ workers, elderly residents can get help with them. The feedback Emmaus has received from clients has been positive.

Marketing and awareness-raising essential

The program coordinator emphasises the importance of marketing the initiative and raising awareness of the skills and potential possessed by immigrants. They have distributed leaflets to all companies and households in Åland, but finding enough tasks for all those interested in work is still a challenge. The next step for Emmaus will be attempting to secure more ongoing work from companies. Emmaus has had very little contact with the public sector, and has instead relied on its own networks and promotions to secure new clients. It has been possible to implement this initiative without the support of the public sector or another large organisation however Emmaus’s knowledge of the legal requirements of employers has been crucial.

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Page last updated September 2016.