Refugee Workforce Integration


The dramatic increase in the number of refugees worldwide poses important challenges to societies and organizations. It is well established that finding suitable employment for incoming refugees is the most important step in integrating refugees in society, yet many refugees end up underemployed or dependent on public support systems.

Despite the importance of workforce integration of refugees, business scholars have not explored issues unique to refugee workers. Compared to expatriates and skilled migrants, refugees face different, and harder to overcome, occupational integration barriers. Refugees did not migrate for professional reasons and were not admitted in the country based on an expected match between their skills and the needs of the job market. Refugees arrive in the host country after traumatic life experiences, with little resources, and often limited language skills.

In this project we will:

  1. Explore the career experiences of refugees in Canada and Australia to understand the barriers they face to occupational integration and the strategies they have used to overcome them;
  2. Explore the role of host-country agents (both individual and organized) and employment infrastructure (e.g. job-search portals, recruitment agencies) in facilitating occupational integration of refugees; and
  3. Expand existing global mobility conceptual frameworks used in organizational scholarship to incorporate refugees and their occupational integration challenges, drawing on exploratory data and literature from other disciplines.

The proposed study will elaborate existing global mobility theoretical frameworks integrating the specific challenges facing refugees. This has important theoretical and practical implications. More importantly, this study will provide the starting point for future research on the role of business organizations in the integration of refugees.


This research was funded by an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant number 430-2016-00183).

Relevant Publications

Nardon, L., Zhang, H., Szkudlarek, B., Gulanowski, D. Identity work in refugee workforce integration – the role of newcomer support organizations, Human Relations

Lee, E., Szkudlarek, B., Nguyen, D., Nardon, L. Unveiling the canvas ceiling: a multidisciplinary literature review of refugee employment and workforce integration, International Journal of Management Reviews

Szkudlarek, B., Nardon, L. Osland, J., Adler, N. J., & Lee, E.S. When context matters: what happens to international business theory when researchers study refugees, Academy of Management Perspective