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including hands-on report and interview with Hilke Oltmanns, counsellor in the subproject “Vocational orientation counselling for refugee women”

Motivation for entering the labour market

Group counselling for female refugees in cooperation with labour administrations

Starting position/challenge

Refugee women face particular challenges when it comes to integration in society and in the labour market. After arriving in Germany, their priorities are often childcare and other family concerns. For them, their own requirements such as learning the German language or starting work are generally of less importance to begin with. Based on Section 10 of the German Social Code Book II (SGB II), clients with children do not have to formally make themselves available to the employment service in the job centres for up to three years. The consequence of this is that female refugees often do not take advantage of the standard provision under SGB II until much later. In order to reach and support this target group at an early stage, it makes sense to provide accessible information on training and gainful employment and to combine this with childcare.

Implementation of the event format

Together with the equal opportunities officers from the job centre in the Stormarn district of Schleswig-Holstein, those responsible for the subproject “Vocational orientation counselling for refugee women” in the IQ Network Schleswig-Holstein developed relevant topics on labour market integration for refugee women with children under three years of age. To start with, the IQ subproject ran the group counselling on-site in shared accommodation and reception facil ities. At the invitation of job centres, the group counselling has been taking place since autumn 2017 in job centres and in employment agencies themselves, as well as in regional women's groups, women’s language courses and nurseries, so that refugee women who do not live centrally can also be reached.

Covering all aspects regarding women and gainful employment, the group counselling is largely organised in workshops with the support of interpreters and consists of up to six different modules. The titles of the subjects covered are “The role of women and gainful employment”, “Education and training”, “Pathways into training and gainful employment”, “Competencies” and “The importance of work”. The sixth module “Rights and discrimination in employment” involves counselling on anti-discrimination and on empowerment for refugee women. The module is run by the  Schleswig-Holstein-based IQ subprojects “The right to fight against discrimination” and “Fair integration in Schleswig-Holstein”.


The cooperation and engagement with the job centres’ equal opportunities officers has proved to be the key to maximising accessibility to the women and to implementing the group counselling — four further job centres have already expressed great interest in the event format. The success of the group counselling sessions, however, is also a result of the standardised childcare and the support from the interpreters. Women with the same native language are invited to the group discussions as translating into just one language per workshop has proven to be most effective.

Addressees for transfer:

Counselling centres, job centres and employment agencies

Event format for the group counselling of women refugees:

The event format provides women refugees who have children up to three years of age with easy-to-access vocational guidance in group counselling. Close cooperation with the equal opportunities officers (BCA) from the labour administrations makes it possible to provide specific support for women at an early stage as they make their way into the labour market. In addition to this, workshops take place both with and in job centres and employment agencies, as well as at regional women’s groups, in women’s language courses or in nurseries. Six different modules are offered addressing all aspects relating to women and gainful employment.


Vocational orientation counselling for refugee women in shared accommodation and reception facilities


Women‘s Employment Situations Network [Frauennetzwerk zur Arbeitssituation e.V.]

Project contact:

Stefanie Kohlmorgen, Walkerdamm 1, 24103 Kiel, Tel.: 0431/67 88 30, stefanie.kohlmorgen(at)