Deborah Habermacher

Cooking up connection

A systemic approach to fostering social connections for the labor market integration of people with a refugee background

Do you know how hard it is for refugees to find a job in Switzerland?
Rahid is a refugee who had to flee his country because he was at risk of losing his life. He had to leave his family behind, to go find a safer place for them to live. He ended up in Switzerland, where he doesn’t speak the language. In addition, he doesn’t know a single person, and everyone thinks he is dangerous. No one calls him Rahid, he is just «the refugee».


The main problem: Lack of connection between refugees and locals
Through conversations with refugees, locals, labor market integration experts, and potential employers in Switzerland, this research has shown a significant issue: A lack of connection between the refugees and the local community caused by missing or wrong knowledge and information about each other.


Why are social connections important for refugee employment?
Not only is a social network key to learning about networking- and job opportunities, but it is also important for their overall inclusion, well-being and sense of belonging. Also, social connections are important for cultural understanding, language- and social skills.


How can social connections be created?
To address this issue, the thesis presents a series of international cooking classes as part of a toolkit to bring the local community and refugees together.
By sharing a passion for cooking, participants can bridge linguistic and cultural barriers and form genuine connections, promoting understanding and rephrasing assumptions. The cooking classes provide social connections and pave the way for professional opportunities for refugees, contributing to their successful integration into Swiss society.


Thanks to the cooking class, Rahid made local friends who helped him find a job. Rahid is finally reunited with his family, and the local community they live in now has grown more diverse and connected.

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