Research often focuses on individual-level factors shaping refugee labour market participation. Less research has been conducted on the implications of the roles of employers, integration programmes, migrant support organisations and similar. This article contributes to the literature by seeking to understand highly educated refugees’ perceptions of how civic integration programmes shape opportunity structures for their labour market participation. It is particularly concerned with how the programmes’ characteristics of malleability and comprehensiveness inform integration processes. Accordingly, the article analyses identification contestations that transpire within civic integration programmes, as perceived by the participants, and compares how these unfold in three different contexts. A total of 41 semi-structured interviews with highly educated refugees in Oslo, Malmö, and Munich were analysed. The findings suggest that the civic integration programmes were thought to either foster or hinder the participants’ employment pathways depending on whether the participants were perceived as highly educated individuals or reduced to the general category of ‘refugee’. The differences were traced back to each civic integration programme’s capacity to provide malleable integration support, calling attention to the importance of the programmes’ acknowledgment of refugees’ heterogeneous needs and the pitfalls associated with undifferentiated refugee categorisation.

DOI: 10.1186/s40878-022-00279-z
ISSN: 2214-594X