A data-driven approach to refugees' labour mobility
Talent Beyond Boundaries
Sayre Nyce, Executive Director - [email protected]
Introduction to the project
Jordan, Lebanon, Australia, Canada, UK
2016 - ongoing
Most refugees are stuck for years or even decades in developing countries which lack the resources to adequately integrate them into society, and where they cannot legally work. Even once the lucky few resettled refugees arrive in developed countries like Australia or Canada, they still face barriers to employment because they lack local connections and knowhow. Refugee skill underutilisation is commonplace, with many internationally-trained refugees such as engineers and doctors being forced into low-skill, low-wage sectors of the economy. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Refugees can use their skills and talents as their passport out of displacement and into meaningful work. The first step to implementing this solution is collecting data on the skills and talents of refugees, as well as the barriers they face in accessing labor mobility pathways.
Talent Beyond Boundaries developed a data-driven approach to identify and overcome the barriers that prevent refugees in Lebanon and Jordan from accessing existing regular labor migration pathways. TBB’s aim was to collect data from refugees that is relevant for employers as well as data on refugees’ abilities to access economic immigration pathways.
Knowledge of what data to collect: TBB learned from refugees about what data they were willing to share, as well as from businesses about what information was essential for them to consider recruiting from a refugee talent pool. TBB also learned about the requirements refugees must meet to access labor mobility pathways.
Technical and financial: TBB built an online, searchable Talent Catalog which captures details on refugees work experience, education, skills, credentials and language abilities.
Operational collaboration: TBB collaborated with refugee outreach volunteers, UNHCR and NGOs in Jordan and Lebanon who could help share information about the Talent Catalog and labor mobility. Once the Talent Catalog was built and people began moving on labor mobility pathways, direct outreach by volunteers and other organizations was no longer necessary.
Technical collaboration: TBB is working with partner organisations like Australian social-enterprise Refugee Talent to make this data available in an anonymized form to employers at the destination end. We built a bridge between the Talent Catalog and Refugee Talent’s searchable recruitment platform, enabling Australian employers to independently search for and request interviews with refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon.
Policy change: TBB is the lead implementing partner in the Economic Mobility Pathways Project (EMPP), a Government of Canada initiative led by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in partnership with five participating provinces and territories. The EMPP aims to test and improve refugee access to Canada’s economic immigration pathways, and has successfully overcome some policy and administrative barriers to access by refugee applicants working with TBB.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) built a “Talent Catalog” that captures in-depth information about refugees’ skills, qualifications and work experience that is relevant to global employers. Until TBB’s data made the human capital in refugee populations visible, Australian and Canadian employers had not considered refugees still living displaced as viable international recruits. This data provides concrete evidence that refugees have skills in high demand in the global economy in professions such as healthcare, tech, engineering, skilled trades, agriculture, food services and more.
This practice of collecting data relevant to international employment contributes to three objectives of the GCR:
- Ease the pressure on host countries: as refugees move with their families for international job opportunities, the number of people in need in host countries is reduced. This allows for limited humanitarian aid as well as resettlement slots to go to other vulnerable people.
- Enhance refugee self-reliance: refugees in many host countries are locked out of the formal workforce. Even when access to work is permitted, it can be difficult to obtain work in practice and difficult to secure decent wages. When refugees can share relevant data about themselves with international employers, this opens up more opportunities for them to secure a job in a country that needs their talent.
- Expand access to third-country solutions: data on refugees’ human capital and visa eligibility enables refugees to apply for and accept job opportunities and secure visas in other countries where they can access a path to permanent residence.
Accurate and dis-aggregated data on refugees’ skills as well as whether they are eligible to apply for existing labor mobility pathways is key to facilitating labor mobility as a complementary solution.
- Governments of Australia and Canada
- Operational NGOs in Jordan and Lebanon
- Operational NGOs in Australia and Canada
Challenges and how they were overcome
- Refugees living in low-data environments need access to WiFi on smart phones or computers where they can register in the Talent Catalog. Language barriers.
- Ensuring self-referred data is accurate and reflects the actual skills of the candidates.
- Human resources: following the collection of skills data which enables connections for global recruitment opportunities, TBB staff time is needed to work with refugees who earn jobs to gather comprehensive information towards completing immigration applications.
How challenges were overcome:
- TBB and its NGO partners conducted in-person outreach and helped people to register directly. The Talent Catalog is also optimized for mobile usage, enabling wider accessibility.
- Registrants can enter their data in either English or Arabic, and we are currently working to expand the number of languages.
- In order to validate the skills of candidates on the Talent Catalog, TBB conducts “intakes” with candidates prior to them being put forward to job interviews. Intakes allow us to confirm candidate language abilities, check qualifications and key documents, discuss a full employment history, and provide assistance to update CVs in accordance with business expectations.
- TBB is testing scalable solutions to support the completion of immigration applications including through the use of pro bono immigration legal networks and employer-pays models to retain legal services comparable to the costs of typical international recruitment.
Results of the Good Practice
- Data collected in Jordan and Lebanon on refugees’ skills, qualifications and work experience resulted in refugees securing job offers by companies in Australia, Canada and the UK.
- Refugees and their families are moving from precarious positions with restricted access to property ownership, banking, or free movement, with visas to a destination country, a job and a path to permanent residence.
- The average salary increase for refugees with job offers is 509%, and refugees’ employment offers include paid leave, health coverage and retirement.
An aim of the GCR is to increase “labour mobility opportunities for refugees, including through the identification of refugees with skills that are needed in third countries.” TBB has learned that the availability, accessibility and accuracy of data related to employability and accessibility to international economic immigration pathways must be enhanced for labor mobility to grow as a solution to forced displacement. TBB will share this learning with others interested in facilitating labor mobility.