Global governance

5 ways refugee integration creates opportunities for business and society

  • 20 June 2019
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On World Refugee Day, ICC is highlighting the private sector contributions that are helping to integrate refugees into workforces worldwide, including a new ICC partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to enhance business engagement in the international response to the global refugee crisis.

Despite economic gains in the past century, many people worldwide have been left behind. Most notably, refugees and internally displaced populations are growing around the world, which has resulted in changing economic, political, and social fabric of communities around the world. Recent statistics from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) cite an unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world forced from home, [including] 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

Refugees and internally displaced persons suffer from overbearing challenges on a daily basis, including language barriers, lack of resources, unfamiliar legal systems, and limited access to capital. Despite dire conditions, there is however a potential for refugees to gain employment and positively contribute to the global economy. According to a collaborative report published by the Centre for Policy Development and Open Political Economy Network, it is estimated that the boost to the economy from launching 1,000 new refugee businesses each year in Australia could yield up to US$1 billion in annual economic and fiscal gains within 10 years.

First marked in 2001, World Refugee Day is held every year on 20 June to raise awareness and assist refugees who were forced to flee from their homes and their way of life.

Each year, World Refugee Day brings people together from all over the world to address the difficulties faced by refugees everywhere.

The private sector has an enormous capacity to empower refugees as full participants in the global economy. As economic actors, policy influencers, employers and innovators, business has the tools and capacity to contribute to win-win solutions that support the integration of refugees into the workforce and bring value to society as a whole.

As the world business organisation, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has launched a partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to enhance business engagement in the international response to the global refugee crisis.

Here are 5 ways refugee integration creates opportunities for business and society:

  1. Entrepreneurship

Supporting refugee-owned businesses can offer many opportunities for companies, e.g. as avenues for product distribution to new places and customers.

  1. Employment

Refugee entrepreneurs can become employers in the long run and contribute to the further integration of refugees. A recent study, conducted by the American-based Brookings Institution, found more than 10,000 Syrian owned businesses in Turkey, each employing 9.4 people on average.

  1. Diversity

Hiring refugees diversifies the workforce. McKinsey & Company found that ethnic and cultural diversity correlate with profitability.

  1. Skills

Evidence shows that refugees bring unique skills and experiences that companies may lack, which support entrepreneurial success.

  1. Attractivity

Companies that support refugees are more attractive to potential employees. A majority of millennials (55.4%) believe host countries should “try to include refugees in the national workforce, according to the World Economic Forum”.

Making business work for all

Both ICC and UNHCR envision a world, where business works for everyone, every day, everywhere. Today, ICC and UNHCR are working to identify areas for future collaboration, including investment opportunities for economies and populations impacted by the refugee crisis. A first initiative will be launched in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh this year.

ICC will also continue to work with its global network of over 45 million companies to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people are protected. At the 11th World Chambers Congress in Rio de Janiero, ICC’s World Chambers Federation (WCF), recognised the Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce (Turkey) for creating the first-ever business support service for refugees around the world. Known as “The Syrian Desk”, the initiative connects refugees with Syrian businesses by helping them overcome language barriers and other professional support assistance.

The project won the 2019 World Chambers Competition category for “Best Unconventional Project” – commending chambers for developing unique projects beyond their prescribed mission that increase jobs and enhance local economies.

At Congress, ICC WCF also published a Global Mobility toolkit to improve the economic integration of migrants into the international trade system. Chambers of commerce support migrants with professional training, facilitating their employment in the private sector. The Global Mobility toolkit promotes sustained solutions for the private sector to enable the economic empowerment and integration of migrants around the world.