Efforts to help refugees who have settled in the UK to integrate into British society have been constrained by the lack of information on the short- and long-term outcomes of refugees, a new report by The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford, reveals today. The report identifies information on jobs and the labour market as particular gaps.
The report, launched today, Refugees and the UK Labour Market investigates how those who migrated to the UK for asylum reasons fare in the British labour market and identifies a number of barriers members of this group face in seeking work. This is despite facilitating the integration of refugees being an important objective of civil society organisations and government departments at the local and national level.
The report – the concluding summary of The Economic Integration of Refugees in the UK project, a two-year study financed by a grant from the Nuffield Foundation – focuses on ‘asylum migrants’.
Asylum migrants include all those who reported moving to the UK for asylum reasons, though for most their continued residence in the UK is not now dependent on refugee status. Most asylum migrants have spent many years in the UK and are now British nationals. This group should not be confused with ‘asylum seekers’, who are individuals waiting for a decision on their asylum application and are not the focus of the report.
The report compares the economic outcomes of asylum migrants with those of UK-born individuals and with those of other migrants who moved to the UK for employment, family, and study reasons.
The data in the report comes from the UK Labour Force Survey, the largest household survey in the UK, which provides the official measures of employment and unemployment covering the period from 2010 to 2017.
Key findings of the report include:
Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, COMPAS Research Director and Principal Investigator of the project said: “Naturally, we found that asylum migrants – who have often fled conflict and other trauma – are more likely to suffer long-lasting health problems that affect their ability to work than people born in the UK and other migrants. So an important recommendation is that when allocating funding geared towards the economic integration of asylum migrants, governments should first address health issues that impede work performance, including mental health. This could lead to better labour market outcomes for this group in the future.
“One encouraging finding is that those individuals who came to the UK for asylum reasons are more likely than the UK born or other migrants to be in self-employment and to employ other people – though their businesses are often small. Policy interventions directed at boosting entrepreneurial potential among refugees and post-asylum settled migrants should consider the factors that limit the growth of these businesses – such as limited access to finance”.
The report also suggests that unemployed asylum migrants rely heavily on public agencies – notably job centres – for their job searches, but that this is not particularly effective. Future analysis should investigate how agencies could serve asylum migrants more effectively, for example, through employment advisers providing specialist support and careers guidance.
The research also identified that lengthy legal restrictions to access the labour market while asylum claims are being evaluated can have adverse long-term consequences for mental health. Support from voluntary agencies could identify training and support programmes to help address these issues.