Startups represent job opportunities for refugees in Brazil

. Jul 25, 2019
refugees startups brazil job market Refugee repairing a bike, as part of the Novos Caminhos project

In Brazil, there are just over 5,000 refugees currently registered by authorities. In most cases, they are trying to escape hunger, violence, and war. But upon settling in Brazil, many face a new barrier: finding a job. Not only must these refugees quickly adapt to a new language and new work culture, but they also have to fight for positions with 13 million Brazilians out of a job. Not an easy feat.

A recent report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that 41 percent of refugees living in Brazil have already suffered some kind of prejudice—which narrows even more their chances of entering the job market.

</p> <p>Despite having a higher level of education than the average Brazilian (34 percent have a college degree), almost half of refugees report difficulties in finding employment. The reasons vary from a lack of <a href="">Portuguese proficiency</a> to trouble in confirming previous certificates: 90.5 percent of those who are graduates have not been able to validate their diplomas.</p> <p>This scenario explains the 19.5 percent unemployment rate among refugees (way higher than the national average), as well as why refugees <a href="">are more prone to entrepreneurship</a>.</p> <p>To tackle these issues, refugees now have the support of several Brazilian startups.</p> <h2>Professional qualification and opportunities&nbsp;</h2> <p>Tembici, a <a href="">mobility startup</a> behind the Itaú-sponsored bicycles for quick rental, which are seen all over Brazil, identified training as a way to give refugees an opportunity to work. The Novos Caminhos project (or ‘New Paths’) is an attempt to help vulnerable groups in society to enter the labor market through a 32-hour training course in mechanics, to learn how about bike repair, traffic safety, <a href="">mobility in big cities</a> and how to generate income.</p> <p>The first cohort of the program started in March and focused on refugees. “We realized that we needed to have some activity to include foreigners who are setting down new roots in Brazil,” explained Juliana Minorello, Tembici’s Government Relations Director.</p> <p>To accomplish that, Tembici partnered with UNHCR, Instituto Aromeiazero—a bike activist group—and influencers within bike culture, such as journalist Renata Falzoni, to design the project. They were also helped by the NGOs Aldeias Infantis and Fé e Alegria to choose the course participants, she told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> in an emailed statement.</p> <p>Tembici’s only requirement was that the students have good Portuguese skills. As a consequence, most of them are Venezuelans, but according to Ms. Minorello, Tembici may even adopt a translation system in the future, if they understand it might help. The idea is also to expand the project to other vulnerable groups and, judging by results with the refugee group, the prospects look positive.</p> <p>According to Ms. Minorello, of the 11 participants who finished the course, five found a job and three were hired by the company to work in São Paulo.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The Venezuelan refugees are very focused, have a great ability to learn and organize themselves. It’s been a great experience. (&#8230;) We talk to thousands of different people every day, so we believe that seeing things from the perspective of diversity helps us to better understand those whom we connect to—whether they’re coworkers, customers or suppliers,” she said.</p> <h2>Sharing experiences as a way to rebuild lives</h2> <p>In 2014, Argentinian entrepreneur Jonathan Berezovsky, himself a grandson of Polish immigrants, came to Brazil after years in the U.S. and Israel. Using his previous experience with an NGO that offered credit to help African immigrants, he founded Migraflix, a platform offering workshops and lectures ministered by refugees in companies. They also offer catering and develop professional training projects to refugees supported by other companies.</p> <p>Migraflix currently supports 290 immigrants and refugees from over 20 countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Their main customers are international companies, who are interested in their experience in order to obtain benefits such as “to experience new cultures and develop emotional and behavioral experiences,” explains Victor Lillo, a Migraflix representative in an emailed statement.&nbsp;</p> <p>But to get there, Migraflix had to face some of the same obstacles refugees and immigrants face when arriving in Brazil. “[We had to] overcome cultural, bureaucratic barriers, and even some mistrust to create this space of coexistence and sharing experiences that benefits those who come and those who welcome them,” said Mr. Lillo.&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, Migraflix partnered with home rental platform Airbnb to provide experiences focused on history, art, music, dance or<a href=""> typical cuisine</a> to Airbnb’s guests in São Paulo. The project “Raízes na Cidade” (Roots in the City) helped to train 50 immigrants to offer <a href=",refugiados-vendem-experiencias-culturais-no-airbnb,70002873117">experiences based on their own culture</a>. The program was launched on Airbnb’s website on June 20, World Refugee Day and, according to Migraflix, “the first results have been promising.”

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Natália Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Before joining The Brazilian Report, she worked as an editor for Trading News, the information division from the TradersClub investor community.

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