Hiring Refugees Is Good for Business

The number of refugees resettled in the US has reached record lows under the current administration. Despite this restrictive political environment, refugees finding work here are thriving, and helping businesses to do the same.
People Impacted
$ 442B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

Studies show that refugees have a lower turnover rate than other employees in 19 of 26 firms across multiple industries, and the same turnover rate in four firms. Additionally, firms that paid more had lower rates of turnover (FPI). Higher retention rates, on average, save companies $5,200 per employee each year, so employing refugees is saving businesses money and bringing people out of poverty at the same time (Global Citizen).

Symptoms and Causes

Uncertainty of Skills

Employers hesitant to hire refugees claim they are unsure of their skills set. Uncertainty over their training and degrees makes them question the hire, because many have no references or the references are unverifiable. However many of the newcomers are highly educated, with the kind of work experience and skills that employers need (Money).

Language Barrier

Studies reveal how the system is failing some of the most vulnerable members of society through inadequacies in the provision of English classes and a lack of suitable routes to employment and training. The study, Optimising Refugee Resettlement in the UK, found women, along with teenagers who had missed core education because of turmoil in their home country, faced the biggest barriers to integration (The Guardian).

Length of Stay

Not only does confusion about the different work statuses and potential work entitlements exist, but also uncertainty regarding the length of stay in the host country of asylum-seekers, refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection, and this creates additional complexities with regard to employment. While refugees normally have a secure legal status, in some countries this status may be subject to renewal after several years (OECD).

the impact
Negative Effects

Myth: Refugees are not dependable long-term or good for business.

The study, Refugees as Employees: Good Retention, Strong Recruitment, found that employers are not only happy with the refugees they’ve hired, they’ve often learned from the experience and become better managers of a diverse workforce. We found at least three ways that integrating refugees can be good for business.

First, it found that employers who made an investment – often rather small – to integrate refugees in their workforce, saw higher retention rates among refugee employees compared to overall retention rates. Of the 29 employers interviewed, 73 percent reported a higher retention rate for refugees than for employees overall.

 integrating refugees into the workforce not only provides financial stability in the lives of people displaced from their countries, it also opens the doors for others to a diversified, accepting and accommodating workforce with good management and the capability to handle other diversity issues that may arise.

Employers’ efforts to create an inclusive and welcoming workforce for all has resulted in a recruitment benefit as well. Refugees often like to work alongside other refugees or immigrants from the same background, which helps them maintain ties in their culture while navigating a new one in the U.S. Once a firm creates a work environment that is welcoming, many refugee workers reach out to members of their community who might want to work for that firm as well. Refugee resettlement agencies who have relationships with employers that are successfully hiring refugees provide another network to widen the labor pool (The New Humanitarian).

Economic Impact

Personal Financial Independence for Refugees

Hiring refugees has the potential to benefit all parties involved. The refugees themselves often benefit most directly from integration into the workplace. Having a source of personal income can be extremely liberating for displaced families; it increases financial independence and allows them to rely less on the aid of their host country. It also means that children can go to school and receive an education instead of staying home to help support the family. Essentially, it allows refugees to become more productive members of society (Borgen Project).

Refugees and Migrants Create Jobs

Refugees and migrants also tend to have much higher rates of entrepreneurship than the rest of society, meaning that they create jobs. It may be helpful to use the U.S. as an example here. In the U.S., migrants—a larger distinction of people living in a foreign country that encompasses refugees—represent about 15 percent of the population. However, migrants constitute about 25 percent of America’s entrepreneurs, indicating that they have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than the average citizen. In 2015, over 180,000 refugees created $4.6 billion in American income due to entrepreneurial ventures (Borgen Project).

Success Metrics


  • For public authorities and employment services

    • Create streamlined procedures for work permits and other necessary certificates based on clear administrative rules

    • If multiple agencies are involved in the process of granting work permits or licenses, enhance the co-operation between employers, employment services and immigration authorities

    • Provide up-to-date, comprehensive information to employers who want to hire asylum-seekers, refugees, and other beneficiaries of international protection, including step-by-step guidance and individually-tailored support, e.g. through telephone hotlines

    • Provide training to human resources staff on the requirements and rights related to employing asylum-seekers and persons benefiting from international protection

    • Offer legal information to employers, including through brochures, online information and dedicated “hotlines”

  • For refugees

    • Be aware of the conditions and scope of the right to work and demonstrate to employers an understanding of them, for example in the job application

    • Become familiar with the administrative framework for employment in the host country

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR)


  • USA government

  • Any industry employing refugees or looking to improve turnover rate

  • Refugees

  • Employers

  • Social Workers

  • Lawyers

Ideas Description

Promote Apps that help refugees transition in their host country:

E-immigrate is an online immigration portal connecting immigrants to a trusted community network to provide resources for a pathway to legal permanent residency and US citizenship. The site is a mobile-friendly web app managed by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, as a private and encrypted portal connecting immigrants with trusted service providers.

NaTakallam offers language lessons, translation and cultural exchange services delivered by individuals who have been forced to leave their homes such as refugees, asylees and other displaced people. This provides them access to income at times where they might otherwise be cut off from the traditional economy in their temporary homes.

Bites | Eat With Your Tribe is a social impact mobile app (featured as a solution on X4Impact) that serves as a jobs platform (cooking gigs) for cooks of all cultures and backgrounds, including refugees, who want to make some money on their own terms, with no overhead costs, while sharing their stories and dining rituals.

Help refugees build resumes and find housing security:

Socialwyze connects people facing housing insecurity and financial distress with public benefit jobs from trusted local nonprofits. We coordinate immediate, low-barrier work that people can perform on their own time, in their own communities. Our constituents automatically build up digital resumes, allowing them to create credibility with landlords and future full-time employers.

The absence of a traditional education or job history does not necessarily mean that candidates are not qualified. On the Skillist platform, job seekers without a 4-year degree - two thirds of American adults - can list and prove their skills by answering questions from the employer; while employers can access a broader and more diverse pool of talent.

Encourage Companies who are already or want to employ refugees:

TaQadam is a technology start-up which makes visual data AI ready. Offering on-demand image annotation using a mobile application and a team of agents trained on a growing number of use cases. TaQadam trains talented refugees, youth and women on image data annotation to become “data trainers” for Artificial Intelligence.

In recent years, various companies have vowed to hire refugees, and it has often been framed as a humanitarian move, and while having humanitarian elements, hiring refugees is also a shrewd business decision. Refugees are hard-working and reliable, and that their presence has allowed them to be better overall employers by forcing the companies to adapt to the cultural nuances of a new community (Global Citizen).

Data Sources

Hiring Refugees Is Good for Business, Major Study Shows-

Refugees as Employees: Good Retention, Strong Recruitment -

Why Hiring Refugees Is Good for Business-

These American Companies Are Hiring Refugees — Even When It's Not Very Popular-

Language barrier leaves refugees facing struggle to rebuild their lives-

Engaging with Employers in the Hiring of Refugees-

How Hiring Refugees Benefits the Global Economy-

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