FBL 4: Employment skills and integration of refugees in the UK labour market

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Applications have now closed for our 2021/2 Vice Chancellor's PhD Scholarships. We will contact applicants in due course.

This scholarship has been developed in conjunction with The DTA Future Societies programme, which will support solutions-driven research that tackles the world’s most pressing challenges, with projects guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Faculty: Business and Law

Supervisors: Dr Anna Paraskevopoulou and Prof Nick Drydakis

Interview date: 25 May 2021

In January 2020, Ministers from OECD working on migration and integration met and discussed “Making Migration and Integration Policies Future Ready”. Part of the discussion was on ‘Innovative approaches to Integration’ and ‘Engaging the whole of Society and Improving Coordination’.

Moreover, the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (Target 10.7, of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets) states the importance “of planned and well-managed migration policies.” Employment and education policies are vital to the integration and sustainability of migrant/refugee communities (Albakri and Shibli, 2019) as their well-being also depends on their job prospects (Paraskevopoulou and McKay 2015) and on their income and wages (Drydakis, 2012; 2013).

Within this context, this project will consider the centrality of employability skills as a means of helping refugees to integrate into local society. While refugees can make a dynamic contribution to local societies in economic, social and cultural terms current research has shown that asylum migrants experience higher unemployment, earn less than other employees, work mostly as self-employed and experience long-term health issues that may impact on their employment performance (Kone et al., 2019) while the persistence of racism challenges their integration process further (Drydakis, 2017).

The research will evaluate the impact of enhancing current skills and developing new ones: first, on refugees themselves to better realize the labour market opportunities (Embiricos, 2020); and second, on employers to be able to benefit from refugee skills and at the same time facilitate refugee integration.

The primary aim of the research is to assess the impact of refugee employability skills on their integration to the local society. The research also aims to:

  • Listen to the voices of refugees on their labour market experiences
  • Explore factors that enable or inhibit refugee integration
  • Examine the role of employers in enabling refugee integration through employment processes

To address these aims a mixed-method approach will be adopted. Quantitative research will map the skills of refugees via a survey of refugees studying in local colleges that provide ESOL and other classes, and refugees already in employment.

Qualitative methods will be used to conduct semi-structured interviews with refugees (including demographic factors to gain a better picture of integration processes); local employers and key informants (such as local colleges; trade unions; community leaders; voluntary sector organisations; Jobcentre plus; council officials).

There is rich research on the integration of refugees and the ARU library provides a good selection of sources. ARU also provides the necessary platforms for online surveys. ARU’s research priorities align with the wider scope of this research and therefore there is both the interest and the research community to support this project.

Findings will contribute to our understanding of skills as a means of social integration for refugees. As movements of population continue to take place at a fast pace, this will be an issue that will preoccupy societies for the years to come. Mapping the existing skills will help the labour market outcomes for refugees, for employers and for the society as a whole.

The research will be published in peer reviewed journals; media reports in The Conversation; and contribution to conferences.

It is also anticipated that this research will produce recommendations for inclusivity and integration policy changes to provide a more secure future for refugees and better utilisation of their skills by the local markets.

Funding notes

This successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers Home tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2021/2 this will be £15,609 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.