The Refugee Assets project uses an online job matching platform and end-to-end support services to provide employment to refugees in the Asia-Pacific and meet labour shortages in the region. The project team joined the innovation workshop convened in Jakarta, July 2017, to develop the idea, and has been working with ADRRN Tokyo Innovation Hub to take the project forward.
HOST International and Refugee Talent are currently developing the Refugee Assets project with the assistance of seed funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), Enhanced Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (Elrha) and the Department for International Development (DFID). They are working on a research project in partnership with Asylum Access Malaysia and TrustLaw (Thomson Reuters Foundation) to identify existing labour migration schemes, work visa and naturalisation options within the Asia Pacific, with a focus on Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea. To further the goal of employer engagement, HOST and Refugee Talent presented at the CSR Asia Summit in Bangkok (2017) on ‘The untapped economic potential of Asia’s refugees’ in partnership with International Rescue Committee Thailand, targeting 450+ business leaders. They are currently undertaking analysis of recruitment practices used by business within the Asia Pacific region and mapping how government policies impact the recruitment process in cross-border situations. In addition, they are conducting a review of labour shortages in the Asia Pacific Region, how labour needs are currently being met, and identifying the most promising opportunities for matching refugees to labour shortages.
Global refugee resettlement places are diminishing; only 0.5% of refugees access resettlement annually. Many in the Asia-Pacific region will never access traditional resettlement protection pathways, and during their protracted displacement (often 10+ years), they cannot access employment and they receive limited assistance to survive, placing them at risk of human trafficking and labor exploitation. The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing acute labor shortages. East Asia would have to import 275m people between the ages of 15 and 64 by 2030 to maintain the share of its population at working age*. Refugees need support to overcome the barriers to employment and employers need support to access this untapped labor source.
There are models in some resettlement countries but nothing currently in the Asia-Pacific region using employment pathways to match labor needs and refugees in need of protection. Refugee Talent has a web platform and associated database designed to collect refugee CV information and present these refugee profiles to employers. The approach is innovative on a number of levels: they are introducing a new product to facilitate a targeted link between refugee communities and the international job market through skilled migration pathways; theye are innovating processes by establishing regional partnership networks aimed at creating disruptive change to restrictive migration policies in the region; they are shifting the position of skilled migration towards a viable option for refugees and assisting the private sector to address labor needs; and they are shifting the paradigm of international protection strategies for refugees to include skilled migration.
Nirary Dacho, co-founder of the Refugee Talent website, is a former refugee from Syria. He arrived in Australia with eight years’ experience working in IT with multinational companies and teaching programming at a university. When looking for work in Australia, he found it very difficult to access the networks and connections that are so important when seeking employment. This inspired the idea to establish Refugee Talent, a web-based platform to match refugees seeking work with employers. “For me, it is more than business and a full-time job. It is changing people’s lives … which is the best thing I could ever do.” Anna Robson, fellow co-founder of Refugee Talent, says “People just want a chance to work, to use their skills, and this is a way we match them to business who are looking for people like them.”
HOST International and Refugee Talent are partnering to expand the success of this project in Australia to the broader Asia Pacific region. CEO of HOST International David Keegan says “There are many refugees throughout Asia who are willing and able to work and many have skills that match identified skills shortages. they believe that employment is critical in achieving self-reliance and retaining a sense of dignity and hope for refugees. Matching refugees seeking work with employers experiencing labour shortages could provide alternative protection pathways for refugees while meeting employer’s needs.”
*The Economist, 11 Feb 2017