Despite Initial Challenges, Businesses Can Benefit from Hiring Refugees
For refugees forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution, Canada has provided them with a second chance to start over. But when it comes to getting back into the workforce, picking up where they left off is typically a major challenge.
Despite being highly skilled and qualified to work in various industries, many of the world’s 50 million refugees are unable to find work in their host countries, leading to increased hardship and difficulty integrating to their new surroundings.
Thankfully, here in Canada, several groups, programs, and organizations are working hard to help refugees find meaningful employment.
But before we dive into that, let’s take a look at some of the factors that make it difficult for refugees to find employment in Canada.
Ongoing Challenges Faced by Refugees Looking to Enter the Workforce
The inability to speak English or French—Canada’s two official languages—is one of the biggest hurdles for refugees who have just landed on Canadian soil. Learning one of the official languages is crucial to labour-market integration, but according to the 2016 Canadian Census, only 20% of government-assisted Syrian refugees were able to speak English or French upon arrival in Canada. This means that before they can fully integrate, they must attend language classes, many of which have lengthy waitlists, according to the Globe and Mail.
Recognition of Foreign Credentials
Another major difficulty refugees experience when seeking employment in Canada is having their credentials recognized by Canadian institutions.
So, even if you were a teacher, doctor, engineer, etc., in your native country, your accreditation might not be transferable to Canada, making it difficult to find a job in your chosen field.
Also, in many cases, fleeing your country due to war means leaving home with little more than the clothes off your back. Making sure to grab a university diploma or certificate is often an afterthought. If you do manage to bring these documents with you to Canada, they must then be translated, which can end up being costly.
Job references are also tricky, as it can be difficult for employers to track them down. Quite often, the references themselves have fled. And if they can be found, there is usually a language barrier.
Bias and Discrimination
From navigating language barriers to cultural differences, hiring newcomers does present some challenges for employers.
And while addressing these issues typically only requires modest investments, many employers are unwilling to take a chance on refugees and navigate these unique circumstances.
Business Benefits of Hiring Refugee Employees
However, working through the initial challenges that come with hiring refugees can actually make for better managers and improve the overall work environment. As a result, this creates a more accepting and accommodating workplace and improves management’s capability to handle other diversity issues that may arise.
According to a report by the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Tent Partnership for Refugees, U.S. companies willing to hire refugees also experience higher retention rates and lower turnover.
Among the employers that were studied, 73 percent reported a higher retention rate for refugees compared to other employees. Refugees also had a turnover rate that was seven to 15 percent lower than for the overall workforce.
Companies that hire refugees also tend to develop an advantage when it comes to recruitment.
By overcoming the minor obstacles that come with hiring refugees from one particular country, employers are likely to see more refugees from that same community applying for jobs within the company. And by building these kinds of relationships with refugee communities, hiring logistics become simpler and more efficient, making it easier to start hiring from other groups.
Programs and Organizations Making an Impact
While many companies have yet to embrace the positives that come with hiring refugees, one organization is making waves by connecting refugees with employers that are willing to take them on.
The non-government organization, Talent Beyond Boundaries, has been working with Canada and Australia to launch pilot projects that match skilled refugees with employers and firms that are willing to hire workers from abroad.
So far, only two refugees have been placed in Canada, but many more could soon follow.
According to the Canadian Press, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen recently stated during a conference on World Refugee Day that he would like to "massively" ramp up the pilot in order for Canada to accept more refugees.
Canada has already accepted 28,100 refugees for permanent resettlement in 2018 and is expected to take in 29,950 by the end of this year.
Now it's for the private sector to follow suit, for both moral reasons and the business advantages.