- Turning refugees into employees: research into the barriers to employment perceived by women refugees in London
- Sargeant, Gill
- Fair Play London
This research was commissioned to look in more depth at the reasons behind the findings of the report: ‘Black and minority ethnic women in the labour market in London: first major London review'. The research aims to investigate how levels of education and training, redundancy and unemployment, flexible working and childcare needs act as multi-layered barriers to the full participation of refugee women in the labour market in London. The results of the research would be used to provide the basis of a training programme for refugee women.
117 organisations were contacted in order to recruit informants for the research. A qualitative approach was taken, involving individual interviews and focus groups with refugee women. The women were initially reluctant to be interviewed because they were tired of being subjects of research without deriving any direct benefits, however when they were informed that the research would feed into a project, they were delighted to participate. The structured topic guide for the focus group interviews is given in Appendix 4. For those who could not attend the interviews, a questionnaire was developed for self-completion, although this did not prove to be a successful method of data collection, and it was abandoned during the course of the research. Case studies are used throughout.
Some of the key findings are as follows:
• the women perceived prejudice from employers and universities, as they believed their refugee status came across as temporary;
• men in some refugee communities often restrict opportunities for women to engage in education and employment as it may be seen to compromise their ‘duties';
• many respondents criticised the systems in place in the UK that refugees must comply with. There were variations in strategies for dealing with this, ranging from ‘putting up with it' to wanting it to be changed completely. They felt that the UK locked them into a ‘benefits trap' which hindered their efforts to find employment;
• lack of references, networking and work experience presented barriers to finding employment. A common route to employment is through taking on voluntary work;
• some of the respondents felt that jobs were only available to younger people. Further, they felt that as women, they were perceived as potential administrative and support workers only.
The main barriers to employment experienced by the women were: lack of English language; awareness of cultural ‘behaviour' expected in the UK work environment; confidence and self-esteem; lack of acceptance of non-UK qualifications; racial prejudice, experienced particularly by black refugees; family responsibilities and the bureaucratic systems in the UK. The women would like to receive training in English language and ‘western customs', and let employers know that they represent an untapped pool of labour.
Recommendations are aimed at relevant government departments, the London Development Agency, education and training providers, London skills councils and local authorities. They include:
• an analysis of institutions' and corporate bodies' processes must be undertaken to identify discriminatory and exclusionary practices;
• local equality strategies and action plans should be developed in consultation with refugee groups;
• work must be done with local employers to raise awareness of refugee women's employment potential, and foster fair recruitment practices in workplaces.
- Resource Type
- Research report
- Funded By
- The London Borough Grants
- Contact Details
- The Industrial Society, Robert Hyde House, 48 Bryanston Square, London, W1H 7LN
- £ Free