More than half of Syrian immigrants who arrived in the Netherlands between 2014 and 2016 have found employment, according to a recent survey conducted by the justice

ministry's research institute, WODC. However, this promising employment statistic is overshadowed by growing concerns of social isolation and loneliness among this community.

The Netherlands is now home to around 150,000 Syrians, of which 32% possess some form of higher education. Surprisingly, 55% of them are gainfully employed, although predominantly in lower-paying positions within the transport and hospitality sectors, or jobs that do not align with their educational backgrounds.

The survey involved 3,000 Syrian respondents who arrived in the Netherlands between 2014 and 2016. It aimed to assess their integration into Dutch society during three distinct timeframes spanning from 2017 to 2022.

Mieke Maliepaard, the head researcher at WODC, noted that labor participation among Syrians has steadily increased since their arrival. More individuals are securing permanent employment contracts with increased working hours. However, this upward trajectory is counterbalanced by a disheartening trend of reduced social interactions and a significant portion of the community facing social isolation.

Financial challenges also plague most Syrian immigrants in the Netherlands. Maliepaard highlighted that many are struggling to make ends meet, with only 18% having savings exceeding €1,300 to weather financial emergencies. This stands in stark contrast to 84% of the general population with similar financial cushions.

The survey participants often cited difficulties finding jobs or encountering obstacles in working within their original professions. For example, Belal Alrefaj, a 35-year-old surgeon who fled Syria with his pregnant wife in 2016, recounted facing numerous rejections despite sending out hundreds of applications for work experience and internships.

Alrefaj, who volunteered as a health board test assistant during the COVID-19 pandemic, is now reliant on social benefits and volunteers as a home care aide. He is also actively working to improve his Dutch language skills to attain certification for his Syrian qualifications and ultimately pursue a career in his field.

Approximately 60% of Syrian immigrants are actively seeking to have their diplomas recognized, a process that can be challenging due to perceived barriers such as lacking the necessary documents. Nonetheless, those who have successfully completed this process express relatively positive sentiments about the outcome.

The prolonged duration required to navigate these integration challenges has led to an increase in social isolation and loneliness among Syrian immigrants, as indicated by the survey's findings. Some respondents lamented that they have become too disheartened to sustain social connections due to the limited prospects for improving their circumstances. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov, Wikimedia commons.