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Hiring refugees good for businesses

5 March 20190 comments

Companies that hire and successfully integrate refugees into their workforces benefit from higher retention rates, better management skills and a wider potential labour pool, a recent publication has revealed.

As such, the Migrant Council of Australia (MCA), in conjunction with the Tent Partnership for Refugees, recently launched The Australian Employers’ Guide to Hiring Refugees, a practical guide to support and assist Australian employers when hiring refugees.

“Employment is a crucial step in the process of settling in Australia. Through work, refugees become self-reliant and empowered to build a future for themselves and their families”, the guide said.

The guide provides a step-by-step approach on how organisations and businesses can go about employing staff from refugee backgrounds including; information worker’s rights, organisations providing recruitment support and practical tips for attracting and retaining staff from refugee backgrounds.

It says that employees who have been refugees have higher retention and lower absenteeism rates, based on a survey of 26 American companies which reported 73 per cent lower turnover for refugee staff.

The experience of surviving the obstacles of being a refugee can be an indicator of courage and resilience, which are beneficial traits in an employee. These experiences also develop a person’s problem-solving skills and adaptability to change, the guide says.

Despite these positive attributes, research shows that of all humanitarian entrants who arrived in Australia between 2000 and 2016, just 38 per cent were employed, 10 per cent were unemployed and 50 percent were not in the labour force at all.

While another survey of around 2,400 newly-arrived refugees found that, of those able to find work in the first two and a half years after arrival, 43 per cent were in casual employment.

The guide claims that refugees face structural barriers when trying to enter the labour market, similar to migrants, making them less competitive in the standard recruitment process.

These barriers are exacerbated for refugees as they haven’t had the time to prepare for their migration, and therefore may not have items like written evidence of education and experience.

“People who come to Australia as refugees are motivated to work and build a new life, but for a range of reasons are not securing jobs at similar rates to other job seekers,” the guide says.

The guide provides advice on the steps involved in hiring refugee employees and ways to overcome some of the structural barriers.

It says employers should think of hiring refugees as way to strengthening their business, not just as a socially responsible decision.

Companies who have already begun hiring refugees noted improved morale amongst staff, as well as having access to cultural knowledge and a wider range of language skills, the guide says.

It includes several testimonials from organisations which have hired refugees.

“Having employees from diverse cultural backgrounds means we deliver better health services to the community. We have more expertise and understanding of people’s needs”… Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Victorian Department of Health And Human Services

“There is a benefit in having people in our branches that represent the communities in which they work. An employee in one of our branches has people queuing out the door to be served by him”… Senior Manager, Inclusion Programs, ANZ

“A small but growing number of employees have reported that they are able to penetrate ‘Language Other Than English” markets more effectively and in turn exceed market share targets of those sectors”… National Manager, Business Development, Telstra

The International Monetary Fund calculates that investment in supporting refugees brings a return more than 1.8 times the initial investment within five years, the guide says.

Economic analysis in Australia shows that a 10 per cent growth in labour market participation is worth $175 million to refugees in terms of income, and $65 million to the government in reduced welfare expenditure and increased tax revenue over a 10 year period.

Many Australian employers have already realised the benefits that hiring refugees can bring to a business, as well as the broader societal impact of refugees becoming self-reliant and building a future for themselves.

The full guide is available for download here.


Annmarie Power

AMES Australia Staff Writer