- Routes into employment for refugees: a review of local approaches in London
- Green, Anne E
- Nov 2006
This article examines a number of local initiatives in London that aim to integrate refugees into the labour market and social life more generally. The article looks specifically at the implementation of policies in this field by a variety of actors and examines their successes and failures.
A literature review, looking specifically at legal and policy changes at national and local levels over the last two decades, provides context to the article. A number of case studies are used in the research. They represent a variety of initiatives in London aiming to integrate refugees into the local labour market and are dealt with separately according to the ‘method' of supporting this integration. They include access to education and training, English language support, recognition of qualifications and encouraging entrepreneurship.
Though the UK offers extensive opportunities for education and training for refugees, the flexibility of this can often hinder access due to lack of understanding of how the system works. Demand outstrips supply of English for Speakers of Other Languages [ESOL] courses in London. Courses need to be tailored to the needs of individuals who will use English differently in different workplaces. However, it is more important to ensure that refugees have enough English to find work as quickly as possible rather than achieve a higher level of competence whilst delaying entry to the labour market. It was felt by local stakeholders that language training needed to be targeted at different stages of refugee integration, with language training designed for specific jobs.
The study finds that ‘qualifications' are overemphasised above ‘skills' when assessing the ability of refugees to undertake employment. Further, work experience is often necessary alongside qualifications, especially in sectors without labour shortages, and this acts as a barrier to securing employment for refugees. Local stakeholders felt that restrictions on the permission for asylum seekers to work sent conflicting signals to employers about the contribution of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to the labour market and labour market shortages.
For many refugees, lack of acculturation to UK work practices remains a barrier to securing employment. Projects have been established to train refugees to look for work, create CVs and give advice on interview behaviour. Refugee community organisations [RCOs] not only provide employment-related advice and services, but create social and community capital, making advice and guidance more culturally-specific and appropriate to the needs of clients. There is a lack of private sector involvement in initiatives which have a work experience element.
Projects to support the integration of refugees into the labour market have grown in a piecemeal, organic fashion in London, and this can be confusing for those seeking employment as well as policy makers trying to gain a clear overview of these policies and initiatives. Some regional partnerships have emerged to create a structured, strategic approach, such as the Renewal partnership in West London.
Conclusions and recommendations
The London labour market is characterised by skill shortages and gaps, which suggests that there are many employment opportunities for skilled refugees. The key to labour market integration for refugees is not only getting refugees into jobs but better utilising their skills, which involves training and a greater degree of time devoted to job-seeking. Refugees should be ‘acculturated' into the labour market and UK society more generally to facilitate their acquisition of ‘soft skills' such as language, which employers seek. This would involve showing refugees how the UK labour market works, how to write CVs and other work preparation initiatives. Misperceptions and prejudice on the part of employers should also be challenged - this can be facilitated by information provision to change attitudes at a local level.
- Resource Type
- Journal article
- OECD Urban, Rural and Regional Development Volume 2006 (8)