A few weeks ago I had lunch with Funmi, a recent immigrant from Nigeria. Funmi moved from Lagos to Antwerp at the beginning of the year to join her business man husband. With a degree in communications and a few years of work experience , she was sure that finding an appropriate job was only a matter of time. Quite logical to think that, right?
Well, almost a year down the line , not only has Funmi not got any job close to what she had hoped to get, she has failed to get a job in a sector she had never thought she would apply to work in.
Desperate to get a job and escqpe the claustrophobia of staying inside the house, Funmi had begun soliciting for cleaning jobs. Any job was better than nothing and she was not afraid of getting her hands dirty washing toilets and dusting counters (plus she had given up hopes of ever getting a job commensurate with her qualifications). Much to her dismay however, jobs in that sector proved as elusive to her as jobs in the communications industry. A “kindly” job placement official to whom she had gone about a job cleaning an office told her that her inability to speak fluent Dutch made her unqualified for the job. Funmi has enough Dutch language skills to hold a conversation but no, she had to be fluent. to clean “ Go and register at a language school and apply again when your Dutch has improved!” Presumably kitchen counters and office floors do not take kindly to cleaners who do not speak to them fluently in their own language. Never knew that, but hey, we live and learn.
Being somewhat inclined to thinking (sometimes), after I left Funmi, I thought , in what sort of world is it close to impossible for a university graduate to get a job cleaning? And what sort of government wastes talent by underutilizing it and making a cleaning job abroad a viable option for its young graduates? (I have the latter thought very frequently, and it is not only cleaning jobs. It’s prostitution, it’s wiping octogenarian butts, it’s working as factory hands ) These are the questions that still harass me even as I write this. And perhaps the longer I stay here and hear stories of different migrant experiences, I am doomed to being hounded by variations of the same questions. Well we’ve all got our crosses to bear, right?