Calls to help women of foreign origin into work

04.09.2020 - 13:40
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Eggert Þór Jónsson
The number of people seeking help from charities because of poverty and unemployment is increasing too quickly for some charities to cope. The single biggest group in crisis appears to be women of foreign origin.

Fjölskylduhjálp Íslands (Icelandic Family Help) is struggling to cope with demand for its services, and demand for help from Hjálparstarf kirkjunnar (the church help charity) has increased by 40 percent in a few months. 

“We say we’re being pushed to breaking point, the charity, both financially and our staff. We are a small institution and are barely coping as things stand, I have to say, unfortunately,” says Vilborg Oddsdóttir, a community adviser with Hjálparstarf kirkjunnar. 

The largest group calling for the charity’s help is women of foreign origin. Unemployment in that sector of society stands at around 19 percent. “This is the group living with the worst poverty and, as well as the poverty, it also lacks connections. There are no aunts, grandmas or mums that can step in and loan 5000 krónur. There’s nobody,” Vilborg says. 

The increase has especially come from women of foreign origin who worked in tourism: “It’s women who were chambermaids, receptionists, kitchen workers, at restaurants, at hotels, it is this group, Keflavík International Airport, just everywhere,” she adds. 

Nichole Leigh Mosty (pictured above), chair of WOMEN, the association of women of foreign origin, says the situation has never been as bad. Many women are contacting the association. 

“Since I have been chairperson I’ve never received as many questions about employment. It always used to be: ‘how can I progress?’ or ‘how do I get my qualifications recognised?’ but now the question is just ‘how do I find work?’” 

Vilborg and Nichole agree special action is needed to help this specific group; especially as the situation looks more likely to worsen than improve over the short-term this autumn. 

“We know things are rough and many are feeling anxious, but people are coping well. They don’t want to be seen to be feeling bad,” Vilborg says. 

Nichole says that the affected women mostly want to stay in Iceland and to get back into work: “Some are really worried because the option of moving back home is also not on offer due to COVID and the unemployment and other stuff going on in their home countries. People want to stay here. It is good to live in Iceland, and we are talking about a strong and capable group of women who don’t want to get stuck in the system; they want to work.” 

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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