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The myth about refugees and the economy

Giving refugees jobs does not withhold employment opportunities from the local population

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

This week, the United Nations announced the “Nobody left outside” campaign, which aims to reach out to individuals and companies to raise $500 million for shelters, tents and transitional housing for the millions of people displaced due to conflicts in Syria, Africa and Central America.

The launch of the campaign coincided with the publication of a study examining the impact of refugees on host countries’ economies over the next 15 years. The study showed that for every EUR1 ($1.12) invested in refugees, they would pay almost EUR2 ($2.24) back into the economy over the next five years alone.

Extension

While it is undoubtedly important to provide housing and shelter for refugees, the campaign can also be used to highlight the need for the private sector to help them, and what refugees can in turn do to company profits. The private sector can offer a lot more than just shelters, and the public - including the United Nations - should not limit their request to ‘physical’ shelters.

Giving refugees jobs does not withhold employment opportunities from the local population

Yara al-Wazir

The world must call on the sector to provide adequate ‘life’ shelters for refugees, including everything from learning the language to a long-term job in which they can utilize their skills. For refugees, life shelters and economic blankets are just as important as physical shelters and thermal blankets, if not more so.

Stealing jobs?

Giving refugees jobs does not withhold employment opportunities from the local population. A 17-year study on the impact of refugees on the Danish labor market showed that refugees entering the unskilled labor market pushed locals from unskilled to medium-complex skilled jobs, thereby increasing their income. This also makes locals more economically mobile, as more complex jobs provide a wider skillset that can be used in various sectors.

Coordination

Without the legal right to work, the true impact of refugees cannot be tracked. This is when inter-governmental coordination becomes important. Governments must work toward automatically granting refugees the right to work as soon as they are granted refugee status. Only four countries currently do this: Sweden, Australia, Spain, and Canada.

In order to maximize refugees’ economic potential, the private and public sectors must coordinate. Guaranteed employment of refugees must be at the forefront of the agenda, and their skills should be noted during the refugee-registration process. This has the potential to be the strongest link between the public and private sectors. The skills that a refugee can bring are as important as their names, origins and ages.

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Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.