Refugee Workers

The UN Refugee Convention defines a refugee as an individual who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their home country because of their race, religion, nationality, or political opinion. A significant percentage of refugees come from Arab states and sub-Saharan Africa. The civil war in Syria has produced one of the largest refugee crises in the world, forcing an estimated 5.5 million people to flee the country.

While many refugees flee to neighbouring countries, others are choosing to settle farther away from their home country. The UK has accepted over 11,000 refugees from Syria under two resettlement schemes over the last few years, and aims to settle thousands more by 2020.

Refugee Employment in the UK

Finding work is among the many challenges that refugees face. Refugees are significantly underrepresented in the UK workforce. Unemployment rates are estimated at a staggering 70% compared to 4% for UK nationals.

Some of the many barriers to employment for refugees include:

  • Poor English language skills
  • Lack of work experience or unrecognised qualifications
  • Lack of social or professional references
  • Cultural stigmas and negative stereotyping
  • Huge gaps on a CV or resume

Employment in the workforce is one of the most important factors for refugees to successfully integrate into society long term. But numerous challenges including the ones identified above prevent many from finding suitable work. Many employers are missing out on a large and diverse pool of talent as a result.

Hiring refugees offers an impactful way for employers to address the growing refugee crisis while also pushing their objectives forward. Here’s how businesses can benefit from hiring refugees.

Creates a More Diverse Workforce

The benefits of a diverse workforce are well documented. A report from McKinsey & Company found a strong correlation between diversity and financial return. Companies with employees from different ethnic backgrounds were 35% more likely to outperform the national industry median.

A mix of individuals brings together varied viewpoints, which often leads to major breakthroughs and creative developments. Companies can ultimately increase revenues and capture more market share by diversifying their workforce. Hiring refugees offers a great starting point.

Increased Staff Retention

Employee retention is a recurring challenge that every company faces. If staff leave at a high rate, employers have to spend resources to find and train new hires – both of which impact the bottom line.

Refugees seek stability so are more likely to stay in a job for longer periods. Employers thereby benefit from higher retention rates. A 2018 report by the Fiscal Policy Institute found that three-quarters of firms surveyed had lower turnover rates for refugees. The findings were consistent across different sectors, with many employers noting an overall improvement in the organisation.

Fill in Skill Gaps

The impending exit from the EU will undoubtedly create a number of social and economic changes, including a skills shortage across different sectors. Employers can mitigate these effects by hiring from the existing refugee population.

Contrary to belief, many refugees hold practical experience from previous work. A report from the Nuffield Foundation found that 45% of refugees held qualifications before arriving in the UK. Many were skilled professionals before having to flee their home countries.