'The Business Case for Diversity - local, regional and national partnerships for the labour market integration of resettled refugees’ was a 1.5-day event held in the framework of ‘Cities that Care, Cities that SHARE – the SHARE Project’, an 18-month programme led by the International Catholic Migration Commission (Europe) and funded by the European Commission. Held in The Hague on 3-4 October 2013, the event built upon the knowledge exchange of the roundtable on business engagement in refugee resettlement, held in Brussels in December 2012 in the framework of the 'Linking-In EU Resettlement' project. This event further developed this exchange, and promoted partnerships and good practice in refugee labour market integration for local and regional employment services, NGOs and private business.
- Refugee employment
Employment promotes the integration of refugees in a number of key ways - by enabling self-sufficiency, increasing self-confidence, improving language and creating social and professional networks. Employment for refugees can also benefit the receiving country by increasing and diversifying the skills base in a specific city, region or country, and by reducing reliance on social welfare assistance.
Refugees, and resettled refugees in particular, experience a number of key challenges to finding employment. Among the four most frequently cited obstacles to finding work are language difficulties, difficulties having qualifications and skills recognised, discrimination in the labour market and a lack of networks and understanding of the employment culture.
- Strategies for employment in European cities & regions
The recent economic downturn has increased unemployment in 17 Member States. At April 2013, approximately 26.5 million European citizens were unemployed, an increase of approximately 105,000 from the previous year. Increased unemployment has had a major impact on socially excluded, vulnerable groups farthest from the labour market, including for example the low-skilled, those with disabilities, single parent households and migrants and refugees.
Specific strategies and initiatives designed to boost skills acquisition and promote stable, sustainable employment have been developed in many European countries. To reflect natural areas of economic activity, employment strategies are increasingly formulated and implemented at regional, city-region and city levels, often driven by local and regional government in partnership with training providers and private employers.
Many employment strategies include specific provisions for vulnerable and excluded groups, and are often linked to policy objectives related to cohesion and social and cultural exclusion. Refugees, however, are largely underrepresented in strategic employment initiatives targeted at vulnerable groups.
- Initiatives to promote the employment of resettled refugees
While many European refugee NGOs have developed initiatives to promote the employment of resettled refugees, the potential for mainstream employment services and private business to play a role in this work is yet to be fully explored or exploited.
Experiences from the roundtable on business engagement showed that with targeted and specialised efforts and services, NGOs can play an important liaison role between refugees and the labour market actors.The roundtable also demonstrated the willingness of private business to engage with the issue of employment of resettled refugees, and the benefits of a sustainable, strategic approach that mainstreams measures for refugee employment into wider employment initiatives and strategies.
In The Hague, participants further developed the exchange on how to engage business in refugee employment, and to promote partnerships and good practice in refugee labour market integration for local and regional employment services, NGOs and private businesses. The roundtable therefore focused on three main themes:
1.) Engaging business within the framework of the “business case for diversity”.
2.) Improving the employment of refugees through employment service strategies.
3.) Building networks for refugees to better assist their access to work.