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Migrants Can Only Get Cleaning Jobs in Germany

Migrants Can Only Get Cleaning Jobs in Germany

Migrant cleaners


“My experiences are all from Mexico,” says Lorena Domínguez. The social worker studied there at the end of the 80s, and in the early 90s, she worked with drug-addicted young people in problem neighborhoods in Mexico City. She herself did not leave this work experience in Mexico – it is Germany that does not recognize her old life.

Lorena Domínguez sits in a rear building in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg in the rooms of an association that takes care of the problems of South American women in the capital. Here the social worker has found a job – after many years of searching.

In 2001, the then 31-year-old came to Germany with her young daughter. Because of love, she moves in with a man in Berlin. For the first two years, she takes care of her daughter, then she wants to work again.

Her problems are those of many migrants: Domínguez speaks Spanish with her husband, german she speaks only broken. And: The attempt to have their training officially recognized in Germany fails. She ends up in a cleaning company, which cleans in schools. Her colleagues are Turkish, Russian, and African. “The others hardly spoke german,” she recalls. The language problem remains. Her employer requires her to work early in the morning. “But I have a daughter who I had to take care of.” After seven months, Domínguez quits the job. She wants to do social work again, but can’t find a job in the industry. “Here you always need a certificate that proves that you are trained here.”

Lorena Domínguez is now receiving social assistance. In 2004, she paid for her German courses herself. She applies to Spanish kindergartens but is rejected because she is not an educator. The social worker attends training courses on working with young people and does two internships. She works with children in a Spanish-German kindergarten and works in a South American women’s association. It has had no success. “I had done two internships, but I couldn’t find a job.” Sometimes she thought about going back to Mexico, she says. She missed her job.


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She lived on Hartz IV for more than three years when she was offered a job as a kitchen assistant in a Spanish restaurant in 2008. She accepts.

A typical biography, explains Uwe Orlowski, who is responsible for placing migrants in the labor market in the Kumulus-Plus network. “Many people seeking advice come to us with studies who are long-term unemployed. From the point of view of the Berlin Senate Department for Labour, they have neither title, nor qualifications, nor work experience.” They would then be classified as Germans without any qualifications – and often went cleaning.

Domínguez is different. At the end of 2008, the women’s association where she did her internship offered her work. “I couldn’t believe it myself.” As a social worker, she now advises South American women, translates letters from authorities or contracts, and helps with debt problems. The state supports her job, which is co-financed by a program that promotes jobs in the social sector. You pay less than usual – for 30 hours it is not less than 1,000 euros. And the work is temporary. The funding expires after three years. Laura Domínguez hopes that her work experience as a social worker in Germany will help her.