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Refugee employment in UK

                                                                                                           March 2020

                      by Tuka Almaleh [email protected]              

Refugees earn on average £284 a week – about half that of UK-born workers

People with Refugee Status in the UK are permitted to apply for work in any profession, to study with home fees (not international fees) and already have a UK visa and National Insurance number. However, many of them struggle to secure jobs and especially professional jobs, including those who have significant transferable experience and even those with UK Degrees or Masters.

The most prominent obstacles that lead to difficulty in finding working in UK according to Vargas-Silva et al. (2018) are:

  • Legal restrictions to access the labour market while asylum claim is being evaluated.
  • Waiting times for asylum decisions.
  • Discrimination from employers.
  • More likely to have experienced traumatic events that affect their mental and physical health and ability to work.

And according to Shearman (2019), who published an article about highly skilled refugee struggling:

  • The culture and language barriers (“Being not very familiar with the society and not growing up in the society is sometimes a bit of a challenge … different jargon; different expressions … the employer may think sometimes this person might not be suitable).
  • Often employers are unaware that refugees have the right to work in Britain and that professional bodies will help assess qualifications from around the world
  • Being out of the labour market might also affect their way of presenting themselves; refugees lack the local contacts of other jobseekers and often rely on public agencies such as job centres, where the work they may find or be encouraged to take up is lower-paid work, not matching their skills and experience.

 Shearman’s study found that refugees earn on average £284 a week – about half that of UK-born workers. Moreover, the University of Oxford compared the income of refugees and native citizen, which could be concluded as the following:

  • Refugees are 19% less likely to be in employment than natives.
  • Weekly earnings are 43% lower.
  • Earn 27% less per hour.
  • Work 16% fewer hours.

Thus, all of us can collaborate and contribute to reinforce equality, diversity and achieve win-win situation as many of them are highly qualified and could contribute positively to the companies.


Shearman, Sarah (2019). ‘Win-Win’ In UK As Highly Skilled Refugees Find Work. Thomson Reuters Foundation [online]. Available at: <https://news.trust.org/item/20191217151108-qnq22/> [Accessed 17 March 2020].

Vargas-Silva, Carlos et al. (2018). The Economic Integration of Refugees in the UK. [Presentation].ECON project. Available at: https://transitions-london.co.uk/download/. [Accessed 17 March 2020].

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