Barriers to employment

Barriers to employment

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As a consequence of both, Covid -19 and Brexit, we are witnessing the structural overhaul of the UK labour market. Businesses continue to mark labour and skills shortages as their top concerns. In the meantime, there is untapped wealth of skills and experience that refugees could bring to our economy, when given the right opportunity.  

People with lived experience of migration very often struggle to secure work that is compatible with their skills and education level (despite often being highly skilled and more educated than UK born citizens). They frequently work part-time, on zero hour or other precarious contracts and are at a higher risk of labour exploitation.

All migrant groups earn less than UK born citizens, however, for refugees the gap is the largest (60% lower hourly salary than UK born citizens). Inability to find a suitable employment often pushes them towards entrepreneurship (data shows that refugees tend to be highly entrepreneurial). 

Did you know?

Most refugees want to find a job as soon as possible (employment remains one of the top means of integration).

There are many challenges though that prevent them from realizing their full potential and, as a result, contributing to our economy. Below you can find the most common barriers to employment:

  • Lack of or low levels of English language
  • Difficulty in recognising previous qualifications and experience
  • Gaps in employment history and no access to references
  • Lack of work experience in the UK
  • Unfamiliarity with the UK job market and recruitment processes

Refugees are more likely to use public agencies such as job centres when looking for jobs. This is their main job search method which is twice the rate of unemployed UK citizens.

  • Employers’ uncertainty over their right to work and confusion around different types of immigration status
  • Personal barriers, including poor mental and / or physical health and low confidence
  • Lack of digital skills and low digital access 
  • Racism and negative stereotyping. 
  • Employer perception that refugee candidates are overqualified or under-qualified for the job
Last updated: 5th January 2023

Contact us about employer engagement

For more information or to discuss getting involved, contact:

Ewa Lelontko - Employer Engagement Manager