HOST International: Using skilled migration to fill labour shortages

HOST International: Using skilled migration to fill labour shortages

Contact details

Submitted by: David Keegan, CEO, HOST International

Email: [email protected]




Introduction to the project


Asia-Pacific: Malaysia, Indonesia.



Project aims

  • Examine the potential for refugees to meet labour shortages in the Asia-Pacific region using skilled migration as a complementary settlement pathway; 
  • Map refugee skills against labour shortages in the Asia Pacific region;
  • Support and enhance advocacy for labour rights for refugees within the Asia Pacific so refugees could meet labour shortages within the region;
  • Examine current legal limitations and opportunities for the above.

Resources used

  • The Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) provided project seed funding.
  • Grassroots NGOs in the region: liaised directly with affected refugees; provided support to upload refugee skills data on the Refugee Talent platform; provided psychosocial and material support to refugees who may access complementary settlement pathways (skilled migration).  
  • Refugee Talent provided the platform and technology to make refugee skills profiles visible to employers in the Asia Pacific region. They also provided private business contacts through their existing client base in Australia who have operations in the Asia Pacific region. 
  • CSR Asia provided: a communications channel (website, newsletter, social media) and a discussion forum (CSR Asia Summit) to promote the untapped economic potential of Asia’s refugees directly to businesses in the region; and supported the brokering of partnerships with businesses who want to engage with the project through their CSR programs.  
  • TrustLaw (Thomson Reuters Foundation) provided access to pro bono legal support from the best law firms and corporate legal teams in the world. Our partnership with them allowed us to access Nokia as a key partner in the project – both to provide legal advice and potential refugee employment and other project support in the future.
  • Asylum Access provided legal and advocacy expertise and will support the launch and promotion of 'Access to Safe and Lawful Employment for Refugees’ throughout Asia Pacific-based networks in November 2019.

Main activities of the Good Practice

Through a multi-stakeholder approach, engaging grassroots NGOs, the private sector and advocacy and research organizations, this project has raised awareness of refugees throughout the Asia-Pacific region which lacks labour rights and access to livelihoods. This also allowed the examining of the potential for complementary settlement pathways, such as skilled migration, to meet labour shortages in the Asia-Pacific region.  

The project meets good practice principles such as: responsibility-sharing and broadening the support base, particularly from the private sector via employer engagement and accessing pro bono private legal services; working in partnership with multiple stakeholders; using technology to match refugee skills with labour shortages, which has the potential to be adapted, replicated and scaled. Providing employment opportunities to refugees enhances the potential for self-reliance, while easing the pressure on host countries by enhancing refugees’ capacity to contribute economically and socially to host communities. Through examining the potential for skilled migration as a complementary settlement pathway, the project seeks to expand access to third-country solutions.


  • Refugee Talent
  • Talent Beyond Boundaries
  • Asylum Access
  • Nokia 
  • Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF)
  • Tokyo Innovation Hub
  • TrustLaw (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
  • Roshan Learning Centre (Jakarta)
  • CSR Asia

Challenges and how they were overcome

The key challenges encountered include: 

  • Visa and legal issues - legal frameworks and administrative structures for implementing employment initiatives for refugees are often complex and can suffer from internal contradiction or uneven application. All stakeholders would benefit from more transparent and accessible information on refugees’ right to work, relevant visa categories and their implications. 
  • Government policy barriers: governments in the Asia Pacific have restrictive policies and significant grey areas. This barrier was reinforced during meetings with UNHCR and NGO service providers.
  • Private business partner engagement: particularly among larger employers with labour shortages and a history of recruiting across borders. The main motivation for employing refugees is currently corporate social responsibility, rather than meeting labour needs. Employers’ reasons for the slow up-take of employment of refugees and asylum seekers range from uncertainty about the rules governing the refugees and asylum seekers’ rights to work, and uncertainty about their skills and qualifications, to lower productivity due to a lack of host-country language skills (at least initially), and unfavourable public opinion (competition for jobs and security issues). 
  • These issues were dealt with by focusing on building an evidence base around access to safe and lawful employment of refugees in the region, joining with organisations already undertaking research work in the area (Asylum Access) and partnering with private law firms, led by Nokia Singapore, through a pro-bono arrangement facilitated by the Thomson Reuters Foundation TrustLaw service, to undertake a thorough examination of the issues to be made available to relevant stakeholders. The project has been nominated for Thomson Reuters Foundation TrustLaw Collaboration Award 2019, which recognises highly effective working relationships between legal teams, NGOs and social enterprises that have dramatically increased the potential impact of projects as a result. The award nomination and report publication will provide a strong platform to raise awareness and understanding of the issues, as well as advocate for refugee work rights and access to alternative settlement pathways through skilled migration.

Results of the Good Practice 

  • Greater understanding amongst private sector stakeholders of the potential of employing refugees to meet labour shortages. Changing the narrative from refugees being seen as burdens to refugees being seen as assets to meet host country and industry needs;
  • Building the potential for skilled migration to become available as a complementary settlement pathway for appropriately skilled refugees, thereby allowing refugees to become self-reliant, ease pressure on host communities and provide third country solutions;
  • Bolstering the research and evidence that granting refugees work rights can benefit local economies as well as refugees themselves.

Next steps

In partnership with Asylum Access and TrustLaw, we will launch the report ‘Access to Safe and Lawful Employment for Refugees’:

  1. The report will support advocacy efforts with influential stakeholders in the research countries including governments, the Bali Process, UNHCR, private businesses, other employers and other civil society organizations to promote refugee work rights across the region. We wish to provide examples to government of feasible work rights schemes from around the region to support our advocacy for the adoption of better law and policy on this issue.  
  2. It is also anticipated that other partners, including international and local organizations active in the region, will make use of the research and will be encouraged to do so by Asylum Access and HOST by distribution through networks such as the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.  
  3. The project has been nominated for the Thomson Reuters Foundation TrustLaw Collaboration Award 2019, which recognises highly effective working relationships between legal teams, NGOs and social enterprises that have dramatically increased the potential impact of projects as a result. The award nomination provides a platform for further advocacy and profile raising of the issue of work rights and complementary settlement pathways for refugees.