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Increasing levels of displacement and the need to integrate refugees in the workforce pose new challenges to organizations and societies. Extant research on refugee employment and workforce integration currently resides across various disconnected disciplines, posing a significant challenge for management scholars to contribute to timely and relevant solutions. In this paper, we endeavour to address this challenge by reviewing and synthesizing multidisciplinary literature on refugee employment and workforce integration. Using a relational framework, we organize our findings around three levels of analysis – institutional, organizational and individual – to outline the complexity of factors affecting refugees’ employment outcomes. Based on our analysis, we introduce and elaborate on the phenomenon of the canvas ceiling ‒ a systemic, multilevel barrier to refugee workforce integration and professional advancement. The primary contributions of this paper are twofold. First, we map and integrate the multidisciplinary findings on the challenges of refugee workforce integration. Second, we provide management scholarship with a future research agenda to address the knowledge gap identified in this review and advance practical developments in this domain.
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International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. 00, 1–24 (2020)
DOI: 10.1111/ijmr.12222
Unveiling the Canvas Ceiling:A
Multidisciplinary Literature Review of
Refugee Employment and Workforce
Eun Su Lee,1Betina Szkudlarek,1Duc Cuong Nguyen1and Luciara Nardon2
1University of Sydney Business School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia 2Sprott School of
Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, K1S 5B6, Canada
Corresponding author email:
Increasing levelsof displacement and the need to integrate refugees in the workforce pose
new challenges to organizations and societies. Extant research on refugee employment
and workforce integration currently resides across various disconnected disciplines,
posing a significant challenge for management scholars to contribute to timely and
relevant solutions. In this paper, we endeavour to address this challenge by reviewing
and synthesizing multidisciplinary literature on refugee employment and workforce in-
tegration. Using a relational framework, we organize our findings around three levels
of analysis – institutional, organizational and individual – to outline the complexity
of factors affecting refugees’ employment outcomes. Based on our analysis, we intro-
duce and elaborate on the phenomenon of the canvas ceiling – a systemic, multilevel
barrier to refugee workforce integration and professional advancement. The primary
contributions of this paper are twofold. First, we map and integrate the multidisci-
plinary findings on the challenges of refugee workforce integration. Second, we provide
management scholarship with a future research agenda to address the knowledge gap
identified in this review and advance practical developments in this domain.
Scholars and practitioners alike increasingly recog-
nize the importance of socially responsible busi-
ness practices and inclusive workplaces (see George
et al. 2016; Shore et al. 2018). This recognition in-
cludes greater attention to the integration of various
marginalized groups into the workforce (e.g. Moeller
and Maley 2018). Despite these commendable devel-
opments, refugees are often left out of such discus-
sions. This is surprising since the challenges of the
humanitarian crisis occupy media headlines across
the world. At the end of 2018, the world’s refugee
population was over 25.9 million, the highest figure
since the inception of the UNHCR in 1950 (UNHCR
While integrating refugees into the workforce is
challenging, it is one of the most critical steps in
the overall integration of refugees into the receiving
society (Feeney 2000). Existing research shows that
many refugees are unemployed (Mikhael and Norman
2018), under-employed (Krahn et al. 2000; Vi-
nokurov et al. 2017), under-paid (Carlsson and Rooth
2016; Yu et al. 2007), working in the informal econ-
omy (Crush et al. 2017a), or dependent on public
assistance (Hansen and Lofstrom 2009). Research in-
dicates that refugees are precluded from finding em-
ployment commensurate with their experience and
expertise (Junankar and Mahuteau 2005; Krahn et al.
2000; Mahuteau and Junankar 2008).
Despite urgent calls to study the inclusion of
refugees into the mainstream workforce (Barak
2016) and repeated calls for management scholars
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington
Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
2E.S. Lee et al.
to address the opportunities and challenges of
global migration (Buckley et al. 2017; Kornberger
et al. 2018), prior research points to particular
challenges in studying refugee employment issues.
First, relevant theorizing and effective strategies for
refugee workforce integration require an in-depth
understanding of the distinctive nature of this group
(Szkudlarek et al. 2019). Unlike skilled migrants and
expatriates who choose to relocate for professional
reasons (Crowley-Henry and Al Ariss 2018; Guo and
Al Ariss 2015), refugees are forced to flee their home
countries, and their admission into a new society is
not based on a match between their skills and the
needs of the job market (Kaabel 2018; Malkki 1995).
The refugee experience, therefore, differs consider-
ably from that of other expatriate and migrant groups,
with many refugees encountering an array of legal,
socio-economic, psychological and physiological
challenges that negatively impact their workforce in-
tegration and job performance (e.g. Agb´
enyiga et al.
2012; Bevelander and Lundh 2007). Second, refugee
research is fragmented by a myriad of disciplinary
silos. Such fragmentation poses significant hurdles
for management scholars in conducting informed
research that builds on existing knowledge and
adequately utilizes work in other disciplines. These
interrelated findings across various disciplines point
towards the need to review and systematize the multi-
disciplinary insights on refugee employment in order
to propose insightful research designs and provide
relevant solutions.
With the above in mind, in this review we aim to
address the following research question: What are
the factors impeding refugee workforce integration?
Developing a clearer and more comprehensive un-
derstanding of the factors hindering refugee work-
force integration, we identify numerous implications
for management scholarship that will stimulate fu-
ture research with the aim of finding workable solu-
tions. The main objectives of this paper are therefore
twofold: first, to review and map out studies from var-
ious disciplines, including ethnic and migration stud-
ies, management, social work, sociology, psychology
and political science; and second, to elaborate on fu-
ture research directions for management scholarship
to guide well-informed and relevant research in this
Based on our review, we develop the concept of
the canvas ceiling to denote the multilevel system of
barriers distinctive to refugees’ struggle in their quest
for workforce integration. The canvas ceiling repre-
sents the combination of latent structural and cultural
nuances that negatively impact refugees’ access to
commensurate employment and consequent profes-
sional advancement, thereby perpetuating workforce
inequality. The notion of the canvas derives from the
temporary shelters made of canvas in which many
refugees stay. Unlike the glass (cf. Cotter et al. 2001)
and bamboo ceilings (cf. Hyun 2012), which pre-
dominantly impede minorities’ career opportunities
within an organization, the canvas ceiling encom-
passes institutional-, organizational- and individual-
level challenges that refugees encounter in accessing
and advancing quality employment within the receiv-
ing society. The concept of the canvas ceiling thus
brings to the surface the interrelated multilevel com-
plexities of refugee workforce integration highlighted
in this review.
We begin by clarifying the terminology around
refugee integration and describing the methods used
in this review. Before mapping the research terrain,
we set the scene by describing the current status of
the literature on refugee workforce integration. We
then present the multidisciplinary findings using a re-
lational framework across three levels of analysis –
institutional, organizational and individual – followed
by a discussion of implications and a future research
Refugees and refugee integration
Research on refugees spans multiple fields of
scholarship (Voutira and Don´
a 2007), resulting in
varying definitions and overlapping concepts. Most
fields apply the 1951 UN Convention definition of
a refugee, as a person who has fled from the home
country crossing international borders because of
a well-founded fear of persecution (Shiferaw and
Hagos 2002), or the 1969 OAU Convention defini-
tion, which extends the inclusion criteria to those
linked to ‘external aggression, occupation, foreign
domination or events seriously disturbing public
order’ (Arboleda 1991, p. 194). Legal scholars,
however, suggest that these definitions are outdated,
partial and circumscribed (Doyle 2008; Moldovan
2016; Shacknove 1985; Vaughns 1998) because they
fail to capture specific situations facing refugees (e.g.
environmental refugees displaced by climate change)
in contemporary international socio-political and
environmental contexts (Moldovan 2016; Rankin
2005; Wood 2014). Moreover, despite adopting
international definitions, individual nations design
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Unveiling the Canvas Ceiling 3
widely varying immigration mechanisms and visa
application procedures that are diverse in the way they
define and grant protection to refugees (Doyle 2008;
Miranda 1990; Moldovan 2016; Shacknove 1985;
Vaughns 1998). These definitions often reflect a coun-
try’s current socio-political interests (Kaabel 2018).
Furthermore, inconsistent definitions of refugees,
asylum seekers and migrants may exist even within
a country (see Baker et al. 2008 for a discussion of
definitional discrepancy in the UK). Therefore, for
the purpose of this review, we adopt an overarching
definition of refugees as individuals, regardless of
their legal status, who have fled their home country
to seek protection and security in another country,
and cannot safely return due to a well-founded fear
of the prevailing circumstances in their country
of origin.
Researchers investigating the process of refugee
integration rely on several related concepts, including
resettlement, settlement and integration, to explore
the process by which refugees rebuild their lives in the
receiving country. We define refugee resettlement as
an organized process of selection, transfer and arrival
of individuals to another country (see Valtonen 2004).
We acknowledge that this definition is restrictive, as
it does not account for the increasing prevalence of
unmanaged migration processes. Consequently, we
propose the term refugee relocation to refer to a non-
organized process of individual transfer to another
We use the term refugee settlement to refer to
the process of basic adjustment to life – often in
the early stages of transition to the new country
– including securing access to housing, education,
healthcare, documentation and legal rights (see Val-
tonen 2016). Employment is sometimes included in
this process, but the focus is generally on short-
term survival needs rather than long-term career
For the purpose of this review, we define refugee
integration as a dynamic, long-term process in which
a newcomer becomes a full and equal participant in
the receiving society (cf. Valtonen 2016). Compared
to the general construct of settlement, refugee inte-
gration has a greater focus on social, cultural and
structural dimensions. This process includes the ac-
quisition of legal rights, mastering the language and
culture, reaching safety and stability, developing so-
cial connections and establishing the means and
markers of integration, such as employment, housing
and health (see Puma et al. 2018; Strang and Ager
Research indicates that refugee life satisfaction de-
pends largely on job and financial contentment (Colic-
Peisker 2009). A high level of workforce integration
is associated with gaining a stable, usually perma-
nent and full-time, job and adequately remunerated
employment that closely fits refugees’ level of skill
endowments (Schmitt 2012), thereby providing ade-
quate economic security. Accordingly, in this review,
refugee workforce integration is understood to be a
process in which refugees engage in economic ac-
tivities (employment or self-employment) which are
commensurate with individuals’ professional goals
and previous qualifications and experience, and pro-
vide adequate economic security and prospects for
career advancement.
In order to identify factors impeding refugee work-
force integration, our review had to span multiple
disciplines, including ethnic and migration studies,
social work, sociology, psychology and political sci-
ence. We began with a systematic approach to iden-
tify key articles from these disciplines, searching on
Web of Science and Scopus with keywords such as
refugee employ* (AND integration). We identified
58 articles of relevance. We then applied a snow-
balling method from these articles, following refer-
ences cited and citations to these articles until no
new relevant articles were identified. Our initial re-
view of these articles revealed an array of over-
lapping concepts and terminologies that were ap-
plied across various fields (e.g. job, employment,
occupation, career). These terminologies were used
to refer to various stages of employment ranging
from preparation and job-seeking to career advance-
ment and promotions. We identified 150 journal ar-
ticles, seven working papers, three dissertations and
11 edited books or book sections discussing work-
force integration of refugees, published between 1982
and 2019. Of these 171 sources, 147 publications
focus on specific receiving countries – 121 in de-
veloped countries, 20 in developing economies and
six in both developed and developing countries.
The remaining 24 publications discuss the receiving
economies in general, without reference to a specific
In mapping out the findings of the terrain sit-
ting across multiple disciplines, we used the rela-
tional framework to capture the embedded nature of
the phenomenon of refugee workforce integration. A
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
4E.S. Lee et al.
Figure 1. Factors influencing refugee workforce integration
relational framework (Al Ariss and Syed 2011; Hakak
and Al Ariss 2013; Syed 2008; Syed and ¨
2009), widely used in the context of diversity manage-
ment and migrant employment-related issues, ‘tran-
scends the disciplinary and methodological demarca-
tions . . . that usually characterize migrant research’
(Syed 2008, p. 31). Application of a relational frame-
work enables us to map the findings of extant research
spanning various theoretical domains and using diver-
sified methodological approaches. Additionally, this
approach allows us to recognize the related and in-
terdependent effects of various factors on refugee
workforce integration. More specifically, instead of
isolating and privileging any given level of analysis,
the relational approach assumes their interplay and
compound contribution to the investigated phenom-
ena (Syed and ¨
Ozbilgin 2009). We follow previous
work in this domain (e.g. Al Ariss et al. 2012; Ali et al.
2017; Crowley-Henry et al. 2018; Fossland 2013) and
map our findings across three levels of analysis: insti-
tutional, organizational and individual (see Figure 1).
We recognize that our partition of findings across
levels is arbitrary at times, due to the compound and
interrelated effects of various constructs on refugee
employment outcomes. In the discussion section, we
elaborate in more depth on the interplay across the
levels of analysis.
Setting the scene for the review
We start by noting that the refugee crisis in general,
and refugee workforce integration in particular, are
at the core of what at times are heated socio-political
debates across the globe (see e.g. Cooper et al. 2017
for an analysis of the Australian media discourse and
Francis 2015 for a study on the Jordanian public’s
sentiment towards refugees). While many societies
are committed to hosting refugees and highlight the
cultural, social and economic value that this particular
migrant group can bring to their countries (Bach et al.
2017), others are vehemently opposed, arguing that
refugees pose security, economic and social threats to
the receiving countries (Campbell and Oucho 2003;
Masenya 2017; ¨
Ozbek 2018). The fear-driven rhetoric
is widespread in public debate and the media (Esses
et al. 2013), as well as actively used in election cam-
paigns (see e.g. Gale 2004 for an example case of
2001 Australian election campaigns and media cover-
age, during which it was argued that Australian border
protection was at risk due to increased acceptance of
refugees). Without a doubt, these socio-political de-
bates influence diverse responses to the refugee crisis
at institutional, organizational and individual levels,
as well as have implications for research in this do-
main (McGahan 2019). In this sense, as researchers
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Unveiling the Canvas Ceiling 5
of refugee-related issues, we are part of this debate,
and as such, we make our stance explicit to inform
the readers of our positioning. We support the sug-
gestions of prior literature that the ongoing refugee
crisis is a societal issue requiring the collective ef-
fort of multiple parties, many of which are involved
in, affected by, or have some partial responsibility
towards addressing the challenges of refugee reloca-
tion, (re)settlement and integration (e.g. Betts 2010;
Boustani et al. 2016; Valtonen 2004, 2016). As re-
searchers of refugee-related issues, we acknowledge
that we too are embedded in a broader social web
of relations and are, in many respects, a part of this
broader discussion. It is our hope that our review can
contribute to refugee policy and practice, particularly
from a management and organizational perspective.
Through this literature review, we aim to provide a
holistic perspective of refugee workforce integration
by presenting the current literature at various levels
of analysis, as well as elaborating on the interrelated-
ness between levels. While most of the refugee liter-
ature focuses on either the institutional (Betts 2010;
Black 2001) or the individual level (Aliaga-Isla and
Rialp 2013; Yakushko et al. 2008), we also elaborate
on organizational-level implications to better eluci-
date the role of employers and support organizations
in refugee workforce integration (Betts et al. 2017).
Overall, refugee workforce integration is a collective
responsibility requiring the engagement of various
actors including refugees, organizations and govern-
ments (Betts 2010; Malkki 1995; Valtonen 2016).
Throughout this review, we have identified several
gaps that limit our understanding of refugee work-
force integration. First, although we attempted to
explicate research incorporating different contextual
settings, the heavy focus of the literature on devel-
oped countries skews our review findings towards
that context. Research in developing contexts sug-
gests that refugee resettlement is more focused on
survival needs (e.g. providing food and shelter) rather
than on employment (we elaborate on this in the sub-
sequent section; see e.g. Smit and Rugunanan 2014),
which in part explains why there is less research on
the employment journey of refugees in developing
countries. Moreover, the lack of research in devel-
oping countries might also be indicative of a widely
documented propensity of (management) scholarship
to engage in research narrowly concentrated in cer-
tain regions of the world (see e.g. Lewin 2014; Tsui
2013). This observation with respect to refugee is-
sues is concerning for two reasons. First, the majority
of refugees reside in developing countries, such as
Turkey and Lebanon (UNHCR 2019), and thus un-
derstanding refugees’ employment journey in these
particular contexts is important, perhaps more so than
in the context of developed economies. Also, as we
have briefly mentioned above, socio-political environ-
ment plays a critical role in drawing out positive and
active responses from stakeholders at institutional, or-
ganizational and individual levels. Yet, socio-political
environments in developing countries can be highly
volatile and unstable, thereby posing greater threats
to the success of refugee integration in these contexts.
The paucity of research in developing contexts forms
an important agenda for future research.
Second, the literature on refugee workforce integra-
tion naturally situates itself in multiple disciplinary
silos. Prior studies, therefore, use a range of theo-
retical frameworks (or are atheoretical) and research
methodologies, resulting in significant fragmentation
of knowledge. Table 1 presents an overview of key
articles in each discipline and the predominant frame-
works and theories utilized, along with their primary
findings. Visualizing the disciplinary silos helps to
understand better the origin of the key findings that
emerged from our multidisciplinary review, as well as
providing readers with insights into the major streams
of conversation within this fragmented field. We begin
by reviewing the institutional factors, focusing on the
legal and regulatory frameworks and socio-political
conditions surrounding the process of refugee work-
force integration.
Institutional-level factors
The complexity of institutional-level factors impact-
ing refugee workforce integration spans an array of
transnational conventions, international regulations,
national legislation and, in some cases, even mu-
nicipal provisions of support. Despite this complex-
ity, our review indicates that most research focuses
on national-level factors, including (i) the influence
of institutional regulations around immigration and
(ii) institutional arrangements regarding recognition
of foreign qualifications and education, as well as
(iii) socio-political climate involving public senti-
ment and political rhetoric. The institutional-level
factors that influence refugee workforce integration
encompass both formal and informal institutional
components. The first two points deal with formal
institutions, which refer to the structural constraints,
such as laws, regulations and formal agreements,
while the third discusses informal institutional factors
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6E.S. Lee et al.
Table 1. Mapping refugee workforce integration research
Discipline Predominant areas of study Sample theories used Principal findings
Ethnic and migration
Downward mobility; discrimination;
integration; adaptation; adjustment; family
issues; diversity issues; coping strategy
(Ager and Strang 2008; Colic-Peisker and
Tilbury 2007; Connor 2010; Fozdar and
Torezani 2008; Krahn et al. 2000)
Human capital and social capital
(Colic-Peisker and Tilbury 2007; De
Vroome and Van Turbergen 2010;
Krahn et al. 2000); adaptation and
adjustment (Montgomery 1996);
social movement theory (Stewart et al.
Individual-level factors, such as individual demographic
characteristics, language skills, social networks, psychological
health and level of motivation, influence refugee settlement,
resettlement and (workforce) integration.
Means and markers of integration, including housing, education,
health and employment-related issues, influence refugees’
integration into society.
Management Discrimination; job search; wages and
working conditions; workplace issues;
co-ethnic economy; refugee
entrepreneurship (Bizri 2017; Campion
2018; Wauters and Lambrecht 2006, 2008)
Cultural distance (Lundborg 2013);
agency (Tomlinson 2010); social
capital (Bizri 2017; Gericke et al.
2018); inclusion framework (Knappert
et al. 2018); psychological contract
theory; social cognitive career theory
(Baran et al. 2018)
Refugees are often discriminated against in recruitment processes,
and excluded from inner circles, which delimits their
opportunities for career advancement.
Individual agency and proactive behaviours are seen as core
facilitators of employment and workplace integration.
Political science Formal institutional structures; political
interests; responsibility; human rights;
welfare reform; policy response;
immigration and integration policy changes
(Bloch 2008; Jacobsen 1996; Sales 2002;
Valenta and Bunar 2010)
Social movement theory (Boersma et al.
2018); (individual choice) game
theory (Borjas 1982)
Institutional structure is formed mostly in response to
socio-political sentiments and interests of the receiving
countries, even though refugee resettlement should be driven by
humanitarian imperatives.
Changes to immigration and integration policies are driven by the
shifting socio-political and economic interests of the receiving
Psychology Mental health; trauma; stress and coping
strategy; psychological adjustment and
adaptation; psychological well-being and
attributions (Beiser 2009; Schweitzer et al.
Psychological adjustment (Beiser and
Hou 2001); cultural distance (Beiser
et al. 2015); acculturation (Schweitzer
et al. 2006)
Misalignment of policy and practice and social and mental health
services often overlook the set of psychological conditions that
negatively influence refugee workforce integration.
Refugees’ experience of discrimination and unfair treatment in the
job market and workplaces worsens their mental health.
Social work Volunteerism; cross-sector collaboration;
refugee policy (Pittaway and Bartolomei
2001; Potocky-Tripodi 2003, 2004)
Social capital theory (Potocky-Tripodi
2004); adaptation and adjustment
(Potocky-Tripodi 2003); acculturation
(Austin and Este 2001)
Lack of adequate on-arrival information and support; absence of
appropriate and affordable housing; challenges with language
acquisition; restricted access to education and employment
opportunities; discrimination within the workforce impede
refugee (workforce) integration.
Sociology Social norms, beliefs and values;
discrimination; socialization processes;
communication patterns; media discourse;
employer discourse; social responsibility;
diversity issues (Bloch 2004; Portes and
Stepick 1985; Tilbury and Colic-Peisker
Labour market segmentation theory
(Portes and Stepick 1985);
assimilation (Portes and Stepick
1985); social network (Korac 2003);
human agency (Castles 2003)
The persistence of high refugee unemployment rates and extensive
participation in co-ethnic communities continue to limit
opportunities for refugees to move up the socio-economic ladder
and push them to the fringes of the receiving economy.
Polarizing public discourse hinders refugee (workforce) integration.
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Unveiling the Canvas Ceiling 7
involving socio-cultural and political climate and its
impact on refugee workforce integration (see Pejovich
1999; Peng and Pleggenkuhle-Miles 2009).
Immigration regulations
Sovereign nation-states have assumed the responsi-
bility to protect refugees for ‘whom special measures
of public policy are justified’ (Black 2001, p. 63).
However, research indicates that these policy mea-
sures are likely to be triggered by political interests
rather than concerns for the wellbeing of refugees
(Kaabel 2018). Conversely, the well-intended legal in-
struments and institutional environments designed to
assist and aid refugees can undermine their financial
and social self-sufficiency (e.g. Bloch 2008; Crush
et al. 2017a; Jackson and Bauder 2013) and economic
integration (Hainmueller et al. 2016). Research in the
Swiss context, for instance, found that the lengthy
asylum process, during which refugees wait in limbo
for a decision on their humanitarian claims, lim-
its refugees’ economic self-sufficiency (Hainmueller
et al. 2016). Research in OECD countries suggests
that ‘the structural status quo’, where contemporary
asylum policy still considers refugees to be outside of
the country’s workforce (Kaabel 2017, p. 60), results
in inadequate accumulation, valuation and utilization
of human capital embedded in the refugee workforce
(Kaabel 2018).
A primary example of an integration policy that
reflects political interests is a geographical focus on
refugee resettlement. Often, as is the case in Aus-
tralia (e.g. McDonald-Wilmsen et al. 2009), reset-
tlement in rural areas is encouraged over metropoli-
tan regions. Employment opportunities in these areas
can be scarce, with limited options commensurate
with the existing skills of refugees; notwithstanding
the limited and often non-existent support services
needed for successful integration, such as local lan-
guage training, educational programmes and physical
and mental health services (Broadbent et al. 2007;
Colic-Peisker and Tilbury 2007; Taylor 2005).
Recognition of foreign qualifications and education
Research points to the numerous ‘labour market shel-
ters’ (e.g. accreditation bodies, professional associa-
tions and employment agencies) that safeguard the
local workforce and employment opportunities by
‘creating shelters in their labour market’ (Freidson
1999, p. 123), thereby posing even greater impedi-
ments for refugee employment. These labour market
shelters are the main facilitators for the accreditation
of qualifications, education and training necessary for
successful workforce integration, and by setting high
standardized and localized procedures, they ‘restrict
entry into higher-status and better paying occupations
and professions, the result being that those already
employed there face less competition’ (Krahn et al.
2000, pp. 77–78). Research indicates that labour mar-
ket shelters offer inappropriate support (Abdelkerim
and Grace 2012) by failing to consider refugees’ prior
education or work experience (Bloch 2002), apply-
ing instead strict regulations in the accreditation of
foreign credentials (Guo 2009; Krahn et al. 2000).
For instance, in Canada, the devaluation and denigra-
tion of prior education and work experiences restrict
refugees’ entry into higher-paying professional occu-
pations (Krahn et al. 2000). This form of marginaliza-
tion often stems from different standards of practice
across countries; standards that position knowledge
from developing countries as inferior and incompati-
ble (Guo 2009). As a result, inappropriate criteria in
valuing foreign credentials are applied (Krahn et al.
2000; Lamba 2003). In this sense, Lamba (2003,
p. 47) referred to ‘systemic discrimination’, whereby
refugees’ past qualifications, experience and educa-
tional backgrounds are denied, restricting entry to the
desired job market.
Although education is seen by many as a means for
meaningful employment (Becker 1994), for refugees,
the level of education can have an adverse effect. For
instance, a recent study of over 2000 refugees in Aus-
tralia showed that pre-immigration education is nega-
tively correlated with employment outcomes (Cheng
et al. 2019). Similarly, a study in the UK showed
that refugees with managerial professions and higher-
educational backgrounds, such as postgraduate qual-
ifications, took longer to find suitable employment,
due to difficulties converting their qualifications, the
paucity of bridging courses and the need for fur-
ther local education experience (Shiferaw and Hagos
2002). A drop in occupational status is observed in
all migrant groups post-migration; however, this de-
crease is much steeper for refugees (Chiswick et al.
2003). Inaccessibility to careers commensurate with
previous experience and qualifications can lead to nu-
merous negative consequences, such as reduced earn-
ings, unemployment, under-employment and mental
health issues (Baran et al. 2018; Ives 2007), all of
which are likely to further exacerbate the challenges
of workforce integration for refugees.
These formal institutional arrangements reflect the
socio-political interests of the receiving countries. In
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8E.S. Lee et al.
conjunction with polarized societal attitudes towards
refugees, the institutional environment of many coun-
tries has been observed to push refugees to the fringes
of a receiving society’s economy (e.g. Edin et al.
Socio-political climate
Apart from the formal institutions, such as laws, regu-
lations and policies around immigration, integration,
qualifications accreditation and education, informal
institutions, ranging from socio-cultural values and
norms to political climate, also delimit employment
opportunities for refugees. As refugee resettlement
and workforce integration are largely influenced by a
broad socio-political context (Malkki 1995; Schierup
et al. 2006), there is an extensive polarized debate
about accepting and integrating refugees into the re-
ceiving society and its workforce (Matar 2017; Mor-
rissey 2012). This debate inevitably impacts refugee
integration in general and workforce integration in
particular (see Ilgit and Klotz 2018 for a discussion in
the German context). The politicization of refugees
as a social burden or unwanted competition in the
job market makes it difficult for them to find and
secure meaningful employment and career advance-
ment opportunities in receiving countries (Casimiro
et al. 2007). Such politicization increases refugees’
perception of discrimination, which in turn nega-
tively influences their career adaptability (Campion
Interestingly, research indicates that societal dis-
course around sympathy, care, tolerance and hu-
manitarianism (Sales 2002) can promulgate cultural
stereotypes (Hanson-Easey and Augoustinos 2011),
which may create further barriers to refugees’ re-
settlement outcomes. Depicting refugees as victims
in need of assistance can negatively impact societal
perceptions, which may prompt policy changes to
deter refugees altogether (Gammeltoft-Hansen and
Tan 2017). This is likely to influence policymakers’
development of the regulatory system, contributing
to systemic discrimination and numerous forms of
marginalization linked to refugees’ career develop-
ment and trajectories (Al-Dasouqi 2016).
Prior research suggests that the cascading effect
of both formal and informal institutional-level
factors influences employers’ views towards refugee
employment (Hurstfield et al. 2004) and the indi-
vidual refugees’ perception of their professional
self-worth (Lacroix 2004) in relation to workforce
integration and employment prospects. We discuss
these organizational- and individual-level factors in
more detail in the following sections.
Organizational-level factors
Our analysis of organizational-level factors affecting
refugee workforce integration includes two sets of
stakeholders, employers and organizations supporting
refugees in resettlement. We also discuss the emerg-
ing research on refugee entrepreneurship as an alter-
native route to economic participation and workforce
While refugees constitute an accessible talent pool in
many countries, research indicates that refugees are
offered, and accept, low-paying, low-skilled, danger-
ous and even illegal jobs (e.g. Brees 2008; Kenny and
Lockwood-Kenny 2011; Thornton 2006). Research
on the role of employers in refugee workforce
integration indicates that suboptimal employment
outcomes are often driven by lack of appropriate
organizational structures and practices, as well as
ethnocentrism and discrimination, cascading down
into organizations from the institutional level (e.g.
Hurstfield et al. 2004).
Recruitment and selection
Human resource management scholarship and prac-
titioners generally accept and recognize the positive
relationship between a diverse workforce and orga-
nizational outcomes (Sheehan and Anderson 2015).
However, migrants are frequently excluded from ef-
forts to diversify the workforce (Syed 2008). This is
surprising since studies in numerous countries (e.g.
Australia and Sweden) showed that employers who
hired refugees were largely satisfied with their perfor-
mance (Lundborg and Skedinger 2016; Szkudlarek
2019). Moreover, employers that successfully hired
refugees were likely to recruit from this group of mi-
grants again and recommended refugee job seekers to
peers in the industry (Lundborg and Skedinger 2016;
Szkudlarek 2019).
It is well established that refugees face various
forms of discrimination during the recruitment pro-
cess. Discrimination is mainly linked to precarious le-
gal status, gender, accent, religion, appearance and/or
ethnic background (Hugo 2014). These forms of
discrimination are particularly widespread amongst
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Unveiling the Canvas Ceiling 9
‘visibly different’ groups of refugees, such as Mus-
lim women in Australia (Northcote et al. 2006),
and less prevalent among so-called ‘invisible’ groups
of refugees, such as Bosnian refugees in Australia
(Colic-Peisker 2005). Many researchers also high-
light that an extra burden is put on refugee women
to overcome employer bias in order to gain access to
employment (Koyama 2014; Krahn et al. 2000; Tom-
linson 2010). Research in the US context showed, in
particular, that resettlement agencies and local em-
ployers made ‘assumptions about gender roles and
identities with the refugees’ (Koyama 2014, pp. 267–
Prior research has also found evidence of systemic
marginalization during the recruitment of refugees.
On the one hand, employers intentionally imposed
higher standards on refugee applicants, compared to
local employees (Lundborg and Skedinger 2016). On
the other hand, employers were reluctant to consider
refugees, due to challenging and time-consuming
processes of assessing foreign education and qual-
ifications (Phillimore and Goodson 2006). Unfor-
tunately, research indicates that employers are fre-
quently unaware of their discriminatory practices and
deny unfair treatment of refugee applicants (Fozdar
and Torezani 2008).
Training and development
Sustaining employment is particularly challenging for
refugees without post-employment training and de-
velopment opportunities (Bloch 2008; Miletic 2014).
However, in many instances, cultural and, to a
lesser extent, occupational training is only provided
by support organizations immediately after migra-
tion and is not offered by employers at workplaces
(Nawyn 2010). From the employers’ perspective,
refugees are rarely considered strategically important,
so few are provided with the cross-cultural and other
forms of support traditionally provided to expatriates
(Szkudlarek 2009).
While a small study in the UK showed that em-
ployers did not identify a need for workplace train-
ing for refugees in menial and low-paid jobs (Bloch
2008), numerous studies found that post-employment
training or retraining is essential for all groups of
refugees (e.g. Bloch 2008; Stewart 2003; Szkudlarek
2019). Research highlights the importance of such
(re)training due to refugees’ time out of the labour
market in addition to their lack of experience and
knowledge of the specificities of the local workplaces
(Bloch 2008). Lack of on-the-job training schemes re-
stricts the development of workplace skills and poses
further difficulties for refugees’ upward career mo-
bility (Bloch 2004).
Empirical evidence suggests that remuneration and
pay should be based on common principles and prac-
tices that consider individual knowledge, ability and
skills (Shen et al. 2009); however, refugees’ em-
ployment terms and conditions are notably worse
than those of other migrants (Sweetman and Warman
2013; Yu et al. 2007).
Refugees often work in low-skilled jobs, earning
minimum wages (e.g. Brees 2008). Wage discrep-
ancies can be even worse for refugees trained in
their home countries. In the UK, only having local
UK tertiary qualifications was positively associated
with higher employment rates and greater earnings
(Bloch 2008). An Australian study with similar find-
ings suggests that wage discrepancies may be due to
employers’ inability to understand, or lack of time
and resources to recognize, home-country qualifica-
tions (Cheng et al. 2019). Even so, a UK study found
that, despite having local qualifications, refugees were
still worse off in terms of their earnings when com-
pared to other ethnic minority groups (Bloch 2008).
Lower wages, longer working hours and worse em-
ployment terms and conditions are attributed not only
to employers’ inability to understand refugee quali-
fications and experiences, but also to discriminatory
biases against refugee employees (Green 2005). For
example, a Swedish study found pay differentials be-
tween local and refugee employees, where employ-
ers believed that refugees lack co-operation skills to
work with staff and customers, which they assumed
hinders refugee employees’ productivity (Lundborg
and Skedinger 2016). Perceptions, rather than objec-
tive measures of performance, are used as a proxy in
assessing adequate remuneration.
Employee relations
Prior research suggests that refugees and other eth-
nic minority workers frequently experience a general
climate of exclusion or isolation in the workplace
(Knappert et al. 2018). In many cases, refugees per-
ceive employers, supervisors and co-workers as per-
petrators of discrimination and exploitation through
ignorance rather than malice (Boese 2015). Despite
anti-discrimination and equal opportunity policies,
ethnic minority group members are often excluded
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10 E.S. Lee et al.
from the ‘inner circle’, and feel alone, uncomfortable
and devalued at workplaces (Knappert et al. 2018). A
Canadian survey of 525 refugees revealed that 70% of
individuals were not satisfied with their current em-
ployment, and 60% believed they were over-qualified
and excluded from promotions (Lamba 2003). Re-
search in Turkey suggested that female refugees were
exploited and excluded by employers more harshly,
because they tended to have limited work experience
and thus were less likely to have other employment
options (Knappert et al. 2018). Refugees described
such experiences as humiliating; in some cases, they
chose to work in the informal economy to avoid work-
place discrimination, despite being exposed to poor
working conditions and limited advancement oppor-
tunities (Broadbent et al. 2007).
Whilst some refugees opt to start small businesses
due to limited economic opportunities and prospects
through traditional employment paths (Crush et al.
2017b), others – often those who have been self-
employed in the past – choose to establish their
own businesses in receiving countries (Wauters and
Lambrecht 2006). Regardless of the reasons for start-
ing their own businesses, refugee entrepreneurship
is often a necessity rather than an opportunity-driven
choice (Bizri 2017).
Refugee entrepreneurs can become significant eco-
nomic contributors to their receiving countries (Hugo
2014) and often employ other refugees (Alrawadieh
et al. 2019), thereby forming their own ‘ethnic econ-
omy’ (Gold 1992; Trankiem 1986). With numerous
benefits of co-ethnic ties, research points to the advan-
tages of this form of employment, including flexible
schedules, personalized reward systems and various
forms of support in resettling in the receiving coun-
try (Trankiem 1986). Yet, due to their marginalized
position in the labour market, refugees hired through
co-ethnic ties are likely to have worse employment
conditions, such as lower wages and longer hours,
compared to those of other local employees (Gold
1992). In addition, refugees’ co-ethnic economies
are generally within a small community and oper-
ate within lower-skilled industries, such as trade of
handicrafts (Wauters and Lambrecht 2006) and hos-
pitality (Alrawadieh et al. 2019). In the long term,
working in co-ethnic communities can provide rela-
tively limited opportunities to develop further social
and human capital, including local language abilities
and professional networks (e.g. Edin et al. 2003).
Support organizations
Support organizations in this review refer to those
organizations with practices and activities aimed at
assisting refugees in matters related to resettlement
and (workforce) integration. Research on support
organizations suggests a diverse typology of these
organizations, including governmental initiatives,
government-sponsored or government-contracted
organizations, non-governmental and non-profit
organizations and social enterprises (Garkisch et al.
2017; McIntosh and Cockburn-Wootten 2019;
Torezani et al. 2008). Support organizations aim to
assist refugees’ access to employment through job
counselling and referrals (Banki 2006; Majka 1991),
language and skills training (Matikainen 2003; McIn-
tosh and Cockburn-Wootten 2019), cross-cultural
training programmes (Lauer and Yan 2013; Ponzoni
2015) and provision of local experience through em-
ployment and volunteering (Martin 2012; Yap et al.
2011). They are often gatekeepers of resources, such
as information and social networks, to which refugees
need access in order to seek employment (Godin and
Renaud 2002; Lacroix et al. 2015; Steimel 2017).
Training and career coaching
Employment support for refugees is a complicated
and multi-faceted process (Dykstra-Devette and
Canary 2019). Research on support organizations
consistently finds that they play a pivotal role in
‘empowering’ refugees in settlement and integration
into the receiving economy (Lacroix et al. 2015),
while acknowledging the sometimes ineffective and
disorganized nature of services offered (e.g. Steimel
2017; Tomlinson and Egan 2002). Most of the lit-
erature on refugee support organizations focuses on
the disappointing and consistently low employment
outcomes for refugees (Tomlinson and Egan 2002),
with many researchers pointing to a lack of organized
assistance programmes (Korac 2003). Research in
four European countries, for instance, found the
resettlement and integration support centres ill-
equipped to support refugees in their initial attempts
to enter the job market (Chadderton and Edmonds
2015). With inappropriate expertise in the process of
recognizing qualifications, professional development
alternatives and training and education, resettlement
agencies struggle to facilitate employment options
for refugees (e.g. Abdelkerim and Grace 2012).
Similarly, Nawyn (2010, p. 157) suggested that train-
ing offered by support organizations was not only
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Unveiling the Canvas Ceiling 11
inadequate and led to particular ethnically stereotyp-
ical occupations, such as manicurists, but also ‘fun-
nelled refugee women into feminized occupations’,
including childcare providers. As such, support
organizations can limit refugees’ career choices by
offering immediately available jobs and failing to cast
a wide net for employment opportunities (Steimel
2017). Often, support organizations are forced to en-
act the political agenda of (local) governments, which
prioritizes immediate employment over career plan-
ning and professional advancement (Finnan 1982).
(Non-paid) work experience
Support organizations can both facilitate employ-
ment and act as potential employers for refugees
(Tomlinson 2010; Yap et al. 2011). For example,
support organizations can offer internal employment
and volunteering opportunities (Abdelkerim and
Grace 2012; Tomlinson 2010) to provide refugees
with valuable local experience and ‘[reconstruct]
identity and [foster] a sense of belonging’ (Jackson
and Bauder 2013, p. 375). In relation to volunteerism,
however, research points to contradictory outcomes.
Whilst some researchers suggest a positive relation-
ship between volunteerism and refugee employment
outcomes (Abdelkerim and Grace 2012), others argue
that refugee volunteers are predominantly engaged
in menial work while challenging tasks are given pri-
marily to local volunteers (Rast and Ghorashi 2018).
Labour market intermediary
A range of support organizations act as intermediaries
among refugees, employers and other employment-
related stakeholders (McAllum 2018; Newman 2010;
Ott 2013). This intermediary role includes advocacy
for the rights of refugees (Boersma et al. 2018), less-
ening of institutional barriers and direct facilitation
of employment (Garkisch et al. 2017). Often, institu-
tions in receiving countries lack understanding of the
needs of refugees in finding and sustaining employ-
ment, thereby requiring an intermediary to better fa-
cilitate communication between a refugee job seeker
and a potential employer (e.g. Matikainen 2003).
Industry collaboration and cross-sector partner-
ships have shown positive results in the US (Hunter
and Mileski 2013) and in Jordan (Libal and Harding
2011) by enhancing a support organization’s capabil-
ity to act as an intermediary between refugees and
employers. Recently, refugee-run organizations have
also been identified as potential partners in compre-
hending and capitalizing on refugees’ qualifications
and experience and reaching out to the wider refugee
community (Easton-Calabria 2016). Although the po-
tential contributions of refugee-run organizations are
significant, these organizations are relatively small
and often struggle to sustain their work (Easton-
Calabria 2016).
Overall, the analysis of organizational-level factors
suggests a multiplicity of stakeholders involved and
the complexity of their operations in contributing to
refugee workforce integration. Employers, support
organizations and refugee entrepreneurs all operate
within the constraining environment of the insti-
tutional context in which they are located. In this
regard, the socio-economic context has an impact on
organizational processes and outcomes through, for
example, the generosity of funding allocated to sup-
port organizations, grants and subsidies for employers
and the availability of micro-financing for refugee
entrepreneurs (Szkudlarek et al. 2019). Moreover,
findings from institutional- and organizational-level
studies point to the need for engagement of
multiple stakeholders, including governments, non-
governmental organizations, education providers
and businesses to address the challenges of refugee
workforce integration.
Individual-level factors
Our multidisciplinary literature review revealed five
categories of individual-level factors that influence
refugee employment: individual demographics, lan-
guage, social network channels, psychological re-
sponses, and motivations.
Individual demographics
Demographic characteristics, such as gender and age,
are salient factors in finding and maintaining employ-
ment (Khawaja and Hebbani 2018; Potocky-Tripodi
2003) in all receiving countries, regardless of the
country’s level of economic development (e.g. Danso
2002; Smit and Rugunanan 2014). In most cases,
refugee women were less likely than men to be
employed (Bloch 2008; Ivlevs and Veliziotis 2018;
Khawaja and Hebbani 2018; Knappert et al. 2018;
Northcote et al. 2006). As discussed in previous sec-
tions, this could be due to limited work experience,
discriminatory practices, or gender biases. Notwith-
standing discrimination against women in general,
refugee women experience longer lags in learning
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12 E.S. Lee et al.
the local language due to a range of factors, including
the unavailability of adequate childcare support fa-
cilities and reluctance to attend mixed-gender classes
(Casimiro et al. 2007).
With regards to age, a UK study found that younger
refugees face fewer barriers and find shorter routes to
employment compared to older generations (Shiferaw
and Hagos 2002). Similarly, results from a Swedish
study found that refugees in their thirties experienced
higher and longer employment lags compared to those
in their twenties (Lundborg 2013).
Local language competency is vital to all refugee
jobseekers (Beiser and Hou 2000; Szkudlarek 2019).
Research conducted in South Africa found that
despite many refugees speaking more than one lan-
guage, lack of proficiency in the common language
spoken in the receiving country prevented them from
participating in education, securing employment
and advancing their professional careers (Smit and
Rugunanan 2014). Similar findings have been noted
in Canada (Jackson and Bauder 2013) and Sweden
(Lundborg 2013). Research in the US suggested that
local language proficiency in itself is not sufficient to
enhance economic status, but is a prerequisite for sus-
tainable employment (Potocky-Tripodi 2001). Insuf-
ficient language skills to find sustainable employment
commensurate with previous experience or qualifica-
tions often result in refugees working in low-skilled
service jobs, such as cleaning, taxi-driving, construc-
tion and farming (Colic-Peisker 2009), or in informal
economies (Smit and Rugunanan 2014), leading
to the risk of being trapped in tenuous economic
Social networks
Social networks have a critical influence on refugees’
search for employment (Beaman 2011; Bloch 2002,
2008; Fozdar 2012). In many cases, social and infor-
mal channels are seen as more effective in leading to
positive employment outcomes, compared to formal
support programmes (Frykman 2012; Lamba 2003;
Lamba and Krahn 2003). As such, refugees are keen
to build stronger social networks (Makwarimba et al.
2013). Previous research has pointed to refugees’
length of residency and language competency as pos-
itively linked to broadening social networks (Cheung
and Phillimore 2014). However, more recent research
suggests that refugees have found ways to fast-track
their expansion of social networks via the use of in-
formation and communication technology (ICT). For
instance, refugees in rural Australia use digital tech-
nology to expand their social networks (Alam and Im-
ran 2015), which can lead to improved employment
outcomes (Lloyd et al. 2013). In fact, it has been
suggested that refugees’ ICT proficiency might be
an important precondition for employability in many
contexts (Wilding 2009).
Yet, previous research suggests that merely hav-
ing social networks does not increase the likeli-
hood of refugee workforce integration (Cheung and
Phillimore 2014); instead, it is the structure and
composition of refugees’ social networks that mat-
ter (Lamba and Krahn 2003; Nakhaie and Kazemipur
2013), as well as long-term engagement in such so-
cial groups (Beaman 2011). In a recent study, Gericke
et al. (2018) point to the need for vertical support
(such as governmental and third-sector assistance)
as a valuable source for adequate employment for
refugees, in comparison to horizontal bonding be-
tween refugees and co-ethnic groups, because the lat-
ter provides access to mostly low-skilled jobs and can
lead to under-employment (Gericke et al. 2018).
Psychological responses
Refugee workforce integration is especially chal-
lenging due to the psychological vulnerability of
this group of migrants. Compared to other migrants,
refugees tend to have poorer mental health at the time
of arrival, thereby making settlement and integration
more difficult (Pumariega et al. 2005; Turner et al.
2003). Refugees’ mental health challenges, such as
post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxi-
ety (Gerritsen et al. 2006), negatively affect refugees’
workforce integration (De Vroome and Van Tubergen
2010). However, there is also a strong link between
economic integration and mental health, suggesting
that refugees’ engagement in employment and edu-
cation can reduce the risk of mental disorder (Bhui
et al. 2006).
Recent research emphasizes the importance of
psychological well-being in refugees’ employment-
seeking journey, because it influences job-search self-
efficacy (Pajic et al. 2018). Similarly, resilience is vi-
tal in building career adaptability (Obschonka et al.
2018), which refers to the ability to cope with critical
conditions, such as transitions and traumas, in oc-
cupational roles (Savickas and Portfeli 2012). How-
ever, refugees are generally more distressed when
attempting to join the local workforce (Beiser and
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Unveiling the Canvas Ceiling 13
Hou 2001; De Vroome and Van Tubergen 2010),
which contributes to further difficulties in securing
and sustaining employment. Refugees describe fail-
ing to find commensurate employment and reliance on
governmental assistance as humiliating, which com-
pounds the devaluation of self (Lacroix 2004). High-
skilled refugees, in particular, experience greater lev-
els of depression, shame and uselessness, despite their
lengthy postgraduate training and years of work ex-
perience (Willott and Stevenson 2013). This deflated
self-image, in turn, poses greater hindrance to em-
ployment prospects (Lacroix 2004).
Often suffering from trauma and loss of family,
freedom and material possessions, refugees who
believed that they were moving to a ‘paradise’ can
encounter disappointment, despair and hopelessness
(Pittaway et al. 2009, p. 137). In an Australian
study, refugees expressed their disappointment
when home-country credentials were not formally
recognized, their qualifications were doubted by
recruiters, co-workers talked down to them or ignored
them, managers distributed work unfairly and their
religious beliefs and practices were not understood
(Casimiro et al. 2007). These findings are similar to
research results in other countries, such as Sweden
(Frykman 2012), Canada (Krahn et al. 2000) and the
UK (Willott and Stevenson 2013). Harsh conditions
in receiving economies produce higher mental
distress in refugees, exacerbating their pre-migration
trauma (Schweitzer et al. 2006) and existing tensions
and acculturative stress (Djuretic et al. 2007; Yako
and Biswas 2014). Refugees swing between hope and
disillusionment in their pursuit of sustainable employ-
ment and career advancement, a process that can lead
to further distress (Pittaway et al. 2009; Rousseau
and Foxen 2010; Smit and Rugunanan 2014).
As is the case for other migrants, motivation is
key to successful refugee integration (Shiferaw and
Hagos 2002) and a critical contributor to proactive
behaviours in finding and sustaining employment in
receiving countries (Colic-Peisker and Tilbury 2003).
Refugees are highly motivated to integrate into re-
ceiving societies given their inability to return to their
homelands (Borjas 1982), and thus are strongly moti-
vated to improve their local language skills, obtain lo-
cal qualifications and secure employment commensu-
rate with their qualifications and skills (Cortes 2004).
These high levels of motivation often translate into
high levels of motivation to find work (Colic-Peisker
and Tilbury 2003; Willott and Stevenson 2013). How-
ever, as discussed in previous sections, empirical ev-
idence has consistently found that tenuous economic
conditions can result in refugee dissatisfaction, lim-
ited social networks and poorer physical and mental
health outcomes (Huot et al. 2016; Ives 2007; Jackson
and Bauder 2013), eventually leading to demotivation
(Willott and Stevenson 2013) and lower self-efficacy
(Pajic et al. 2018).
All of the above individual-level factors are in-
tertwined with institutional- and organizational-level
conditions. For example, the socio-political climate
and organizational culture affect refugees’ well-being
and their integration efforts (see Berry 1997 for a
discussion on the importance of openness and inclu-
sive culture of the dominant or hosting group in mi-
grant integration). Similarly, initiatives to overcome
negative narratives around refugee employment (see
Garkisch et al. 2017 for an extensive discussion on
the initiatives of support organizations in this domain)
can contribute to employers’ openness towards this
group of job seekers as well as impacting their expe-
riences in the workplace. Positive employment out-
comes may, in turn, affect the increasing acceptance
of refugees by employers (Lundborg and Skedinger
2016) and by receiving societies, which can then im-
pact the socio-political debate and policy formulation.
Discussion: The canvas ceiling in refugee
Many refugees face a multitude of barriers affecting
their workforce integration. Each level of analysis we
have described above points towards a range of fac-
tors that impede employment for this migrant group.
Yet, it is the interplay of these various factors that
cumulatively contributes to suboptimal employment
Application of a relational framework allows us
to synthesize the findings, thereby highlighting the
interrelated effect of barriers identified in this re-
view. The cascading effect apparent in the barriers
to refugee workforce integration is especially impor-
tant. First, the socio-political environment impacts
the overreaching institutional frameworks for refugee
employment and policy formulation as well as the or-
ganizational behaviours in recruiting and workforce
integration of refugee job seekers. The official scaf-
foldings are accompanied and impacted by the public
discourse surrounding refugee (re)settlement, as poli-
cies around migration and refugee integration are de-
veloped in consideration of the specific circumstances
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
14 E.S. Lee et al.
(with an array of legal, political, social, cultural and
religious interests) of the receiving countries (Penninx
2005). Especially the negative socio-political climate
towards migrants in general, and refugees in partic-
ular, heightens stereotypical beliefs about refugees
in societies and workplaces (e.g. Z´
arate et al. 2004;
Zimmermann et al. 2000). Researchers suggest that
such socio-political discourse is likely to influence
the success of refugees’ adjustment in the receiving
communities and workplaces (Casimiro et al. 2007;
Correa-Velez et al. 2015; Szkudlarek et al. 2019).
Second, the institutional system determines the level
of support and funding given to support organizations
and employers, thereby impacting the organizational-
level engagement in facilitating refugee workforce
integration. Financial aid from governmental bodies
is especially important for support organizations, as
many of them are not-for-profit and struggle to main-
tain appropriate levels of assistance (Garkisch et al.
2017). Adequate and continuous institutional support
is also essential for employers to recruit and manage
refugee workers (Tahiri 2017). Finally, these com-
bined effects interplay with the individual circum-
stances of refugees seeking employment, which influ-
ences their motivation and psychological well-being,
as well as their employment prospects in relation to
their individual dispositions or demographics.
This compound combination of barriers to refugee
workforce integration is most apparent when taking
a top-down perspective (from the institutional to the
individual level). However, the interrelated effects
are also likely to be present from a bottom-up
perspective, whereby individual employment out-
comes and circumstances collectively impact the
socio-political climate around refugee workforce
integration. For example, institutional barriers and
social marginalization at the macro-level, combined
with organizational-level factors such as employers’
unwillingness to commit time and resources to
understanding refugees’ home-country qualifications
(Phillimore and Goodson 2006) and discrimina-
tory practices (Fozdar and Torezani 2008), create
stronger barriers for refugees attempting to access
adequately remunerated employment opportunities.
Such barriers push refugees to aim at the lower end
of the economic spectrum (Carlsson and Rooth 2016;
Vinokurov et al. 2017; Yu et al. 2007), which, in turn,
demotivates them and sometimes worsens their psy-
chological distress (Beiser and Hou 2001; De Vroome
and Van Tubergen 2010; Ives 2007; Jackson and
Bauder 2013). Research shows that refugees become
accustomed to being trapped in these temporary and
low-status jobs, which results in loss of employment
self-efficacy (Xypolytas 2018). With little economic
stability, refugees continuously live in precarious
conditions in which their survival needs (Crush et al.
2017a; Xypolytas 2018) outweigh the time and effort
needed to foster the skills and experience required
to build professional careers in receiving countries.
The longer refugees spend in suboptimal economic
conditions, the wider the socio-cultural gaps between
refugees and mainstream communities (Xypolytas
2018). Consequently, marginalization becomes
a vicious cycle for refugees, where overcoming
challenges at one level may not significantly help
in eliminating the complex multilayered barriers to
refugee workforce integration.
Reflecting upon the challenges of refugee work-
force integration and the complex combination of bar-
riers, we introduce the concept of the canvas ceiling.
Use of the canvas metaphor explicates the challenging
nature of finding and sustaining rewarding employ-
ment with advancement opportunities, and the pro-
longed extreme conditions that refugees face, even
after leaving their temporary shelters. The notion of
the ceiling is used to illuminate the limits that a partic-
ular social group encounters in their career journey
(cf. glass ceiling and bamboo ceiling). This career
journey includes finding a means to professional ad-
vancement in an employment opportunity that aligns
with individuals’ prior skills and career goals (see e.g.
Boyd and Thomas 2001; Morgan 1998; Wright et al.
1995). The notion of a canvas ceiling denotes that,
for refugees, not only is their professional advance-
ment challenging, but so is access to employment
that is commensurate with their previous experience
and qualifications. Our mapping of the field indicates
that the canvas ceiling represents an extreme form
of systemic marginalization that cuts across multiple
levels and results in an interplay between the com-
plex combinations of barriers at those levels. That
is, refugees experience interrelated effects of com-
pound challenges that they must overcome in order to
achieve adequately remunerated and commensurate
employment with prospects for professional advance-
The notion of the canvas ceiling is useful to
capture the dynamic consequences of interactions
among refugees, organizational stakeholders and in-
stitutional systems. It illuminates the often invisible
and complex boundaries to refugee employment and
workforce integration and enables those to be seen,
understood and analysed. Many of the challenges
might not be unique to refugees, but the extent and
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Unveiling the Canvas Ceiling 15
the compound effect of the combination of factors
impeding employment is among the most severe for
refugees in comparison to other groups of migrants.
At the same time, we hope that our paper will inspire
and inform scholars working with refugees and other
marginalized groups to advance our theories and im-
prove employment outcomes for all employees.
Researching refugee workforce
The complexity of the canvas ceiling phenomenon
and the scarcity of management research in this do-
main provide an opportunity for multiple research av-
enues. A list of future research directions is suggested
herein and in Table 2 to guide management scholars
in contributing to tangible solutions to refugee work-
force integration. Our recommendations are struc-
tured across both vertical (including multiple levels
of analysis) and horizontal (within each level of anal-
ysis) axes, highlighting and reflecting the complexity
of the canvas ceiling in refugee workforce integration.
Also highlighted is an important research gap on em-
ploying organizations that needs to be addressed to
tackle the challenges of refugee employment.
Vertical, multilevel approaches
As discussed above, barriers to refugee workforce
integration do not operate in isolation. Consequently,
our mapping of the literature emphasizes the need
for a relational approach to understanding refugee
workforce integration. This requires an increased
level of interactions among stakeholders, along with
research approaches that simultaneously consider
multiple levels of analysis. Studies on refugee
employment that span various stakeholder groups,
such as national governments, employers, trade
unions, civil society and refugee groups, need to be
introduced to examine how shared responsibilities
can promote better awareness of the interplay among
the barriers encountered by refugees in finding and
sustaining (self-)employment. In addition, future
research can incorporate interrelated aspects of
refugee workforce integration by investigating how
factors at one level may impact those at another level.
For instance, an investigation into socio-political and
economic conditions that encourage employers’ en-
gagement in refugee workforce integration, refugees’
entrepreneurial activities and refugees’ co-ethnic
economy can further inform our understanding of the
multilevel nature of refugee workforce integration.
Moreover, institutional reforms to facilitate foreign
qualifications accreditation could improve refugee
job seekers’ and employees’ prospects for career ad-
vancement, thereby increasing their work motivation
and efforts to integrate into receiving societies and
Our review recognizes the work of non-
governmental organizations, which often runs in par-
allel with governmental systems of support. Support
organizations may play an intermediary role between
refugees and employers. Future research could ex-
plore which models and forms of brokerage and en-
gagement lead to the most sustainable employment
outcomes. Researchers could also study cross-sector
partnerships and other forms of collaborative efforts
perceived as crucial to addressing grand challenges
such as refugee workforce integration (Ferraro et al.
2015; Koschmann et al. 2012). Intersectional ap-
proaches will not only help scholars develop a more
comprehensive understanding of the canvas ceiling
phenomenon, but also assist policymakers in creating
initiatives that incentivize stakeholders to participate
in refugee employment support systems.
Horizontal, cross-comparative approaches
Given that refugee integration is a global phe-
nomenon, we note with surprise the scarcity of
multi-country cross-comparative studies. First, in-
vestigations of successful and failed initiatives across
institutional and organizational levels of analysis
would allow the identification of best practices to
optimize governmental and organizational responses
to the challenges of refugee workforce integration.
Such studies could be guided by, for instance, com-
parative inquiries within and between developing
and developed nations, research across different
sectors, such as commercial and non-commercial,
as well as an investigation into governmental and
non-governmental initiatives promoting refugee
workforce integration. Comparative case studies be-
tween organizations with differing forms of inclusive
management practices, diversity policies and diverse
motivations behind corporate engagement could
also inform scholars and practitioners and assist
in developing support systems that encourage and
motivate engagement of employers in the facilitation
of refugee workforce integration. Second, on an indi-
vidual level, cross-comparative studies could look at
the impact of various initiatives on diverse groups of
refugees coming from different backgrounds across,
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
16 E.S. Lee et al.
Table 2. Future research agenda on refugee employment and workforce integration
Approach Suggested research questions
Vertical, multiple level How does the socio-political and economic ambience around refugee migration impact employers’ practices
and individual refugee employment outcomes?
How do socio-political and economic conditions influence refugees’ entrepreneurial activities and co-ethnic
economy? What are different types of institutional incentives that lead to higher employer engagement,
and how can they be sustained in times of political and economic instability?
What are novel forms of (international) accreditation that can foster employer engagement and improve
individual refugee employment outcomes?
How are cross-sector collaborations between (supra-)national bodies, governments, support organizations,
education and training providers and employers managed and maintained to improve refugee workforce
integration? What are the factors that impede such cross-sector projects?
What are the challenges of and opportunities for refugee workforce integration in developed versus
developing countries?
What are the different conditions in workplaces that foster an inclusive environment for refugees across
various industry and country contexts?
What forms of diversity management practices lead to higher employment outcomes, and what are the
conditions of their impact and effectiveness in various contexts?
What are the drivers of corporate engagement and how can various forms of engagement spread within and
between industries?
How can various employers’ initiatives influence workforce integration of refugees coming from different
backgrounds across, for instance, demographics (e.g. ethnic background, religion, gender), skill levels
(e.g. blue- and white-collar occupations, high- versus low-skilled jobs) and visibility in the receiving
community (e.g. impact of participation versus non-participation in co-ethnic economy, large versus small
ethnic enclave economy within the receiving country)?
Organizational-level gaps What drives or deters corporate engagement in refugee workforce integration?
How could current diversity and inclusion policies and practices be extended to accommodate the
circumstances of refugees?
What are best practices in attracting and retaining a refugee workforce?
What forms of up-skilling are suitable to accommodate the career transition of refugees who have not
planned and strategized for their relocation?
What is the impact of various forms of support on individual refugee employee performance and that of the
work unit, with special emphasis on improving long-term employment and professional advancement for
Theoretical gap How does understanding refugee workforce integration challenge long-standing assumptions on theoretical
concepts, such as acculturation and culture shock, which have been studied predominantly in expatriate
How can the multilevel concept of the canvas ceiling expand theorizing of inclusive workplaces, which
currently emphasizes race gender-related issues?
How can we expand and advance the global talent management literature, which focuses predominantly on
narrowly defined high-potentials and expatiates, to encompass refugees?
for instance, demographics (e.g. ethnic background,
religion, gender), skill levels (e.g. blue- and white-
collar occupations, high- versus low-skilled jobs) and
visibility in the receiving community (e.g. impact
of participation versus non-participation in ethnic
enclave economy, large versus small ethnic enclave
economy within the receiving country). Researchers
of organizational behaviour could focus on, for
instance, individual work identities and self-efficacy,
to understand individuals’ lived experiences and
their journey towards commensurate and sustainable
employment. These studies could examine the impact
of various practices on cross-cultural adjustment,
performance and the well-being of refugees.
Organizational-level gaps
Our mapping review shows that current scholarship
is state- or refugee-centric, with limited research at
the organizational level. Empirical research is un-
evenly distributed, with considerably more research
on support organizations than employing organiza-
tions. This is surprising, since businesses are the
primary stakeholders in the refugee quest for em-
ployment. A closer investigation into motivations for
business engagement, effective workplace initiatives,
cross-cultural training, up-skilling training, diversity
and inclusion policies, as well as various other forms
of support within workplaces, could expand current
theorization and understanding of corporate social
C2020 British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Unveiling the Canvas Ceiling 17
responsibility, corporate engagement in social issues
and inclusive workplace initiatives. Also worth study-
ing are the short-term and long-term organizational
practices, policies and initiatives and their effective-
ness throughout a longitudinal timeframe.
Theoretical gap
Despite the wide variety of fields involved in re-
searching refugees, many studies remain atheoretical.
Greater advancement of the field could be achieved
through, for example, applying diversified theoretical
lenses. At the moment, for instance, the theoretical
positioning of the current literature seems to sug-
gest individual-level refugee agency. That is, refugees
are expected to become more active in acculturation
(Vinokurov et al. 2017) and integration efforts (Strang
and Ager 2010), as well as developing their own hu-
man capital (e.g. Dustmann and Fabbri 2003) and ex-
panding their social networks (Gericke et al. 2018;
Korac 2003). To lessen the burden on individuals
and understand shared responsibility across the lev-
els of analysis, we observe the need to incorporate
societal-, institutional- and/or organizational-level
theories to better conceptualize the multiplicity of
barriers to refugee workforce integration.
To expand theoretical contributions in the manage-
ment field, extant assumptions in existing manage-
ment and organizational studies should be questioned.
For example, Szkudlarek et al. (2019) extended the
long-standing theoretical framework of international
adjustment by deviating from empirical path depen-
dency on company-initiated international assignees,
to study refugees’ adjustment in receiving countries.
Further studies can investigate the long-standing as-
sumptions on theoretical concepts, such as culture
shock and acculturation, which are predominantly re-
searched in expatriation and international study con-
texts. The notion of the canvas ceiling developed in
this paper can also bring about a multilevel over-
reaching perspective into our current theorization of
management practices and inclusive workplaces. Re-
search in this domain is primarily focused on race- and
gender-related issues, and the inclusion of refugees is
a promising avenue for expanding our theorizing. We
also recommend the application of the canvas ceil-
ing in global talent management and global leader-
ship literature to further our advancement in foster-
ing the refugee talent pool. Given the contemporary
dynamics of global migration trends, challenging the
pre-existing assumptions of management theories can
further advance our theoretical insights to encompass
a wider range of globally mobile workers.
We conclude by noting that our multidisciplinary re-
view and proposed future research agenda aim to
assist and contribute to greater engagement of both
management scholars and practitioners in resolving
refugee employment issues. We urgently call for the
current knowledge gap in the field to be addressed. To
do so requires a research approach that engages with
numerous stakeholders, incorporating those who are
perceived not only as research participants but also
as direct recipients of knowledge. Only then can the
relevance and applicability of the research be tested in
various countries and contexts. With a rising call for
socially responsible businesses and inclusive work-
places, management scholars and practitioners need
to pay attention to the issue of refugee workforce
integration and acknowledge the need for impactful
research and practice in this arena. Given the increas-
ing internationalization and diversification of work-
forces across the world, the function of management
is progressively becoming international and cross-
sectorial at its core. This change should be reflected
both in practice and theory. We hope this review pro-
vides the foundation for a more nuanced and sophis-
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... Social inclusion for refugees, in the form of access to the labour market and language education, has received increasing academic attention in recent years but remains comparatively under-researched, and undertheorised (Garnier et al., 2018;Lee et al., 2020;Morrice et al., 2021). While learning the host language has been demonstrated to be essential for self-sufficiency, well-being, and integration (Blake et al., 2017;Morrice et al., 2021;Tip et al., 2019) there is a need for a greater understanding of language learning for adult refugees and how various countries' policies may impact learning opportunities (Morrice et al., 2021). ...
... While learning the host language has been demonstrated to be essential for self-sufficiency, well-being, and integration (Blake et al., 2017;Morrice et al., 2021;Tip et al., 2019) there is a need for a greater understanding of language learning for adult refugees and how various countries' policies may impact learning opportunities (Morrice et al., 2021). Similarly, while a range of studies has been undertaken on refugees and workforce integration (see Lee et al., 2020), significant gaps remain. Lee et al. (2020) suggest that there is a need for further investigations that take into consideration multiple levels, cross-country contexts, and a range of stakeholder perspectives. ...
... Similarly, while a range of studies has been undertaken on refugees and workforce integration (see Lee et al., 2020), significant gaps remain. Lee et al. (2020) suggest that there is a need for further investigations that take into consideration multiple levels, cross-country contexts, and a range of stakeholder perspectives. Further, while there is significant evidence of refugees being subject to barriers to employment and advancement, many studies focus exclusively on individual agency and the improvement of human capital rather than providing any theorisation on structural barriers (Lee et al., 2020). ...
Full-text available
Humanitarian migrants, while required to prove their vulnerability to gain entry to a country of settlement, rapidly become subject to an integration narrative where self‐sufficiency is the primary aim. In the integration narrative, language learning is conceptualised as an individual endeavour that will inevitably lead to employment, while linguistic fluency and social inclusion tend to be presented as the inevitable outcomes of engagement in the labour market. Lack of success is attributed to individual failures and is typically addressed through policies designed to incentivise the individual to try harder. Drawing on a qualitative study involving refugees, language teachers and settlement brokers in New Zealand and Sweden, this article critiques the integration narrative by contrasting it with the voices of those who have sought to conform to the ideal narrative yet failed to reach the idealised outcomes. Using M. M. Bakhtin’s notions of monologue and epic dis‐ courses, it challenges the view of language learning and integration as “a test of virtuosity” (Sullivan, 2012, p. 49) which the deserving are guaranteed to pass. Instead, it argues that a range of exclusions prevents successful language acquisition, labour market entry, and social engagement and that incentives, while potentially increasing the individual’s desire for success, are insufficient unless structural inequalities are addressed.
... It is recognized that migration often entails a loss of social capitalthe capacity to create and utilize resources within and between networks (Putnam, 2000) which can lead to isolation (Eggenhofer-Rehart et al., 2018;Ager and Strang, 2008). However, what differentiates humanitarian migrants from economic migrants is that they are forced to flee their country and often go into exile to an unknown destination (Lee et al., 2020). Forced mobility has a number of consequences that influence labor market transition. ...
... 'Pôle Emploi' staff have struggled to deal with individuals from abroad who have qualifications obtained in their country of origin, which are rarely recognized by employers even when they are provided with a certificate of equivalent qualification (Bilong and Salin, 2022). Moreover, employment agencies often restrict humanitarian migrants' access to higher status and better paid sectors of the labor market, directing them instead toward lower skilled but more easily accessible jobs (Lee et al., 2020;Senthanar et al., 2020). Bilong and Salin (2022) showed that over 85 % of refugees did not find jobs through the national agency but through their own informal networks, despite all using Pôle Emploi. ...
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This paper examines the design and operational challenges of managing a mentoring program supporting the labor market integration of humanitarian migrants. Data were collected using extended participant observation of organizational activities and processes, analysis of internal and external-oriented documents and communications, and interviews with a range of program stakeholders in a French organization working with recently arrived humanitarian migrants. Utilizing theoretical insights from value creation approaches, the paper identifies how the organization attempted to construct value propositions, including how these were embedded in the program’s design and actors’ engagement. Moreover, it examines critically how these were interpreted, enacted and occasionally subverted through the perceptions and actions of the various actors involved in the program delivery. In doing so, the study evaluates how the scope, goals and impacts envisioned by the organization translated into participants’ experiences, which potentially shaped program outcomes. The findings stress the implications of program specialization and distributed governance on the effective management of mentoring schemes aimed at facilitating migrants’ transition into work.
... Language proficiency and accent are both noted as barriers to both work-integrated learning, and postgraduate employment for both CALMMR (Lee et al., 2020;Ramjattan, 2022) and international students (Pham et al., 2018), but with little tailored language provision offered in careers services (Andrewartha & Harvey, 2017). Moreover, significant cultural issues in the Australian workplace ⎯ labelled 'the canvas ceiling' by Lee and colleagues (2020) ⎯ create barriers for CALM employees. ...
... The stuck places that language and mental health cause CALMMR students are further impeded by generic transition-out supports that often fail to recognise these bespoke challenges. As other work has noted, there is a critical need for 'diversity training' for people working in student-focused roles, such as careers guidance, that can help staff understand the employment barriers that implicit bias, such as accentism, create (Lee et al., 2020;Ramjattan, 2022). As Rice (2017) asserts: ...
University student equity cohorts experience inequitable graduate/ employment outcomes. These challenges are magnified for Culturally and Linguistically Marginalised Migrant and/or Refugee students (CALMMR). Consequently, this study aimed to investigate the views of Australian university educators on the transitioning of CALMMR students from higher education into employment. Employing mixed methods, this study commenced with a survey of university educators (n=40) followed by semi-structured interviews (n=13). Findings highlighted that specialised, diverse support is needed for CALMMR students across studies and into careers. Specifically, students faced additional challenges, which are not being met in a fragmented university system. Universities need to provide support that is more holistic, targeted, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive, to address the inequity in graduate/employment outcomes experienced by CALMMR students.
... Although advancements in technology have increased accessibility, there is still work to be done in closing digital divides. While hybrid business models can be effective, they can moreover lead to legal complications due to their careful balancing of sustainability and goal [10]. Even though social incubators help new businesses get off the ground, it is critical that they remain sustainable once the first program ends. ...
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Objective: Social entrepreneurship has emerged as a powerful driver for positive change in an era characterised by tremendous global challenges. The research highlights the need of social entrepreneurship in creating novel solutions that balance market efficiency and social impact, highlighting the limitations of established approaches. The complexity of problems like poverty, healthcare inequities, and environmental degradation calls for fresh viewpoints and approaches. However, obstacles such as limited resources, worries about scalability, and striking a balance between financial viability and social impact can make social entrepreneurship a difficult terrain to navigate. Method: A new method called Driven Collaboration Networks with Impact Assessment Metrics (DCN-IAM) is proposed. This method provides a structured although adaptable structure for coming up with and trying out novel solutions. The DCN-IAM method assures that offered solutions are additionally new yet practical and effective by fusing creative problem-solving with rigorous impact evaluation. The following instances show how social entrepreneurs might use DCN-IAM to develop effective, scalable solutions to pressing global problems. Result: In addition, the technique's viability is confirmed by a simulation analysis by comparing its results to those of well-established social entrepreneurship models (SEM). The research project provides social entrepreneurs, policymakers, and stakeholders with the ability to drive revolutionary change by introducing the novel DCN-IAM technique and exhibiting its applicability through instances of success. Conclusion: The simulation research demonstrates that the method can be more effective than conventional methods, arguing for the continuous combination of innovation and impact assessment in solving global problems.
Due to the ongoing refugee crises, refugees and their workplace integration have attracted the attention of management scholars. The understanding of refugees varies and often lacks clarity in this emerging research. In analyzing how management scholars define the term “refugee,” detailing their approaches to heterogeneous refugee populations and outlining their assumptions about refugees' coping agency, this literature review provides a structured analysis of the emerging field's collective knowledge and theorization. We propose detailed implications to enhance the understanding of refugees in management research and show future avenues for research.
There has been a gap in knowledge regarding how civil society organisations (CSOs) interact at different levels when working to integrate refugees into the labour market—its causes and limitations. To contribute to filling the gap, this study employs both a rational choice perspective and sociological institutionalism to analyse how and why CSOs in Jönköping municipality in Sweden interacted with other relevant actors, both other CSOs (horizontally) and the public sector (vertically), to integrate refugees into the labour market after the refugee crisis in 2015 and what challenges they faced. It analyses different forms of interaction, that is, not only the relationship between the state and the civil society but also the one between different civil society organisations, which brings a new analytical dimension to the concept of coproduction to support refugees. By analysing the organisations’ interactions at different levels, the study identifies four themes: Striving to be flexible and service-minded organisations; between rational choice and institutionalisation of horizontal interactions; obstacles to horizontal interactions; and difficulty of measuring goal attainment.
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Despite the human potential and ambitious aspirations of humanitarian migrants they face high levels of un- and under-employment. The aim of this report is to understand employers’ perceptions and experiences of hiring refugees, and how public policy could encourage or support employers to employ refugees successfully in greater numbers on a sustainable basis.
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The overwhelming number of refugees in the world today constitutes a major socio-economic and political challenge. With more than 50 years of scholarship on global mobility, International Business (IB) should be well positioned to address this challenge. Yet the field’s historic emphasis on expatriates has resulted in dominant assumptions and perspectives that are not relevant for other groups moving across borders. Empirical path dependence has caused significant conceptual blindness. Focusing primarily on expatriates who, in fact, represent an extreme case of international transitions, has resulted in conceptualizations of international adjustment that are partial and incomplete. These conceptualizations overly rely on individual- and organizational-level factors at the expense of critical macro-level factors. Extending the domain of IB scholarship by examining the contrasting extreme case of refugees opens up the field to new theorizing and a broader, more accurate conceptualization of international adjustment. Studying the international adjustment of refugees exposes previously taken-for-granted assumptions and generates insights that will allow IB as well as general management scholars to develop more robust theories and urgently needed practical interventions.
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This study uses the longitudinal data from the Building a New Life in Australia survey to examine the relationships between human capital and labour market participation and employment status among recently arrived/approved humanitarian migrants. We find that the likelihood of participating in the labour force is higher for those who had pre-immigration paid job experience, completed study/job training and have better job searching knowledge/skills in Australia and possess higher proficiency in spoken English. We find that the chance of getting a paid job is negatively related to having better pre-immigration education, but it is positively related to having unpaid work experience and job searching skills in Australia, and better health. We also explore the ethical implications of the findings.
To fully comprehend the disabling policy environment in which refugees in South Africa attempt to carve out a livelihood, it is important to analyse two largely independent but overlapping streams of policy-making. This paper first examines the post-apartheid refugee protection regime and traces how and why a generous right-based approach has been progressively comprised by growing restrictionism, exclusion and bureaucratic ineptitude. The 2017 Refugees Amendment Act and White Paper on International Migration represent the culmination of this process. While both are probably unimplementable and will be the subject of numerous court challenges, they can be seen as a major retreat and an increasing failure to protect. The second part of the paper traces the history of national and municipal informal sector governance since the early 1990s. Since so many refugees are forced or choose to work informally, the uncertainty and confusion this history has produced is of particular relevance. Refugee entrepreneurs have regularly been the victims of general and targeted informal sector eradication campaigns.
Businesses in a wide range of industries profit from the immigration of vulnerable people who are crossing international boundaries to escape war, famine, poverty, and persecution. I argue that the field of management faces a moral, humanitarian, and social imperative to deal comprehensively with the implications of this fact.
Integration has been explored through research, policy and practice as a framework for gauging the extent to which refugees successfully navigate the economic, social and cultural dynamics of their new country; however, the definition and assessment of integration still remain elusive. The purpose of this study was to: (i) operationalize an integration framework to create a reliable and valid survey to assess refugee integration, (ii) test the use of a community-based participatory research (CPBR) model (the 'Community Connector' (CC) model) with refugees and (iii) gain insights into the integration process of newly resettled refugees with the use of the survey and CC model. The Refugee Integration Survey and Evaluation (RISE) survey was developed and administered orally to 465 newly arrived adult refugees by caseworkers. Follow-up survey data was collected annually over the course of three additional years using the CC model. The survey was deemed reliable and valid. The CC model led to a 70 per cent response rate three years after baseline data collection. On average, the Overall Integration score increased steadily over time. The implications of this study are that a gap in the literature was addressed and the RISE survey can play a key role in understanding the salient integration factors that could be used by receiving countries to promote integration and help ensure the successful resettlement of refugees around the world. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.