Welcoming refugees pays economic dividends, if they’re allowed to work

A new report recommends getting refugees into work quickly, coupled with high investment


Every euro invested in refugees can generate two euro in economic benefits over five years, new research from the Tent Foundation suggests.

Dispelling the myth that refugees are fundamentally an economic burden, the research finds that while welcoming refugees requires an initial investment, it quickly yields economic dividends as refugees both supply labour and create consumer demand.

Author Philippe Legrain points to the hundreds of thousands of ‘boat people’ who fled Vietnam in the 1970s and 80s. Today, Vietnamese refugees are more likely to be employed than people born in the US, and have higher household incomes.

However, in order for these economic benefits to be unlocked, refugees must be allowed to work, an area in which the EU currently falls short.

“Many [EU countries] provide the worst of both worlds: little help for refugees and high barriers to employment and enterprise. This breeds hardship and failure for refugees, and misplaced resentment towards them from locals. Greater investment in refugees combined with reforms to open up opportunities for progress are both economically and politically desirable.”

The key policy recommendation is that countries should get refugees into work quickly.

At present, asylum seekers in the UK are not entitled to work while their applications are being processed, which can take months, and in some cases upwards of a year.

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