Why Should Companies Hire More Refugees and Newcomers in France?
France presented its 29th Immigration Bill since 1980 during a Council of Ministers Meeting on 1 February. Under the title 'Controlling Immigration While Improving Integration', the Bill aims to impose restrictive measures, including a requirement for proficiency in the French language, for obtaining work permits by asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented migrants. With the increasing number of immigrants in the country, is there anything being done to integrate refugees and newcomers into France’s economy?
At the age of 20, Théo Scubla met two Syrian refugees, Omran and Rateb, at a housing centre for refugees near Paris. At that time, Omran was a former economics student, and Rateb was a former engineer at a power station before coming to France. After meeting them, Théo realised Omran and Rateb are just regular people affected by unfortunate circumstances and how important it is for society to see, recognise and value the talent of refugees and newcomers in the country.
Driven by this ambition, Théo co-founded Each One, a growing social enterprise of 40 team members. “I understood that society could only change with a systemic approach,” says Theo.
But this was different from a typical non-profit organisation. Each One took the hybrid form of a recruitment company and a non-profit. It delivers programs to remove barriers for refugees to enter the job market and recognises the need to address both individual and hiring company’s needs simultaneously to create systemic change.
Each One focuses on a comprehensive 360-degree “All in One” program that connects refugees to companies and offers short and intensive training programs. The program includes technical and soft skills training tailored for the job identified as well as job-focused language courses that equip refugees and newcomers with skills for employment. In parallel, each One provides inclusion sessions to future recruiters and managers to prevent unconscious bias and create a more enabling environment around new recruits.
This year, Théo was featured in Forbes France 30 Under 30 for his innovative approach to improving the integration and livelihoods of refugees and newcomers to France. Some of their notable partners include IKEA and BNP Paribas.
Navigating changes in law and division in the French society
As the grandson of Italian immigrants, Théo’s grandparents often felt like outsiders in France. While growing up, he recounted how they always perceived themselves as having limited opportunities and not becoming the people they could have been. “That created a lot of frustration within me and pushed me to emerge, a profound willingness to not let social determinism define people,” says Théo.
According to France’s national statistics agency INSEE, one in 10 people in France is an immigrant, totalling almost seven million people. Despite the growing immigrant population in the country, their living conditions are affected by economic hardships, such as poverty and difficulty in finding a job.
The Immigration Bill titled ‘Controlling Immigration While Improving Integration’ is stirring controversy in French society. It proposes that France will open up pathways for undocumented migrants to work in industries struggling with labour shortages, and permit asylum seekers to work when their application starts being reviewed. However, at the same time, the Bill plans on increasing fines up to 4000 euros for employers hiring undocumented migrant workers.
“Since the society is divided, politics is coming up with ambiguous and non-pragmatic answers,” says Théo. “But the good thing is that there are companies that can bridge the gap where the citizens or the politicians can’t.”
Encouraging companies to hire immigrants and new-comers
Since 2015, Each One has trained over 3,000 refugees and raised awareness among the 29,000 corporate collaborators and student volunteers about the issue of inclusion in France.
But Théo’s journey didn’t start off easy. As Each One's impact grew, he has faced various challenges in partnering with companies. Many were reluctant to engage in the social aspects of their businesses, remaining fixated on making profits.
Théo says that companies often think of social initiatives as a symbolic thing because they don’t know how to actualise them. “They don’t understand that the economy is social, so we use the rules of the system to converge and align the company's economic interest with social initiatives.”
He recalls his experience working with one distribution company in South West France. The company’s manager was reluctant to partner with Each One because he held the belief that most of the people in that region share an anti-Muslim sentiment.
“We could have said no,” Théo says. “We know that some collaborators are racist, but accepting that we have to work with everybody and not antagonise companies or individuals creates possibilities.”
To tackle these challenges, Each One serves as a bridge, showing companies how inclusivity benefits their mission. By creating partnerships between companies and individuals, the organisation fosters understanding, leading to a change in attitudes and ideologies.
The distribution company later became one of the biggest investors of Each One and showed interest to renew their partnership based on a high turnover and satisfaction. “There needs to be a point of contact, there need to be encounters, and then there is a link on which we can work to build a platform. What was once fear, converted into pride of having an impact,” adds Théo.
Empowering a More Inclusive Tomorrow: Collaboration and Connection
Théo believes in the power of collaboration and urges young leaders and organisations to unite in their efforts to build an inclusive world. Instead of focusing solely on nonprofit organisations, he encourages young leaders to create companies.
“There are already many non-profit organisations that are doing a wonderful job, but now we need to build up on that by starting companies that will create the links between the economy and the social world,”says Théo.
Each One is determined to grow its impact in other European countries by 2024 and aims to enable 10,000 people to return to work in the next few years.
If you want to partner with or learn about Each One, you can connect with Théo Scubla through his LinkedIn profile.