Refugee workers: the untapped talent pool that helps businesses thrive


We hope that many more Australian companies will respond to our call to hire refugees as a special diversity category.

Dr Sayd Farook, Executive Director of the Crescent Foundation

But previous research by Associate Professor Szkudlarek shows that once refugees are settled at work, they have high productivity and low turnover.

“The lack of local experience and ‘inside’ knowledge for refugees seeking employment can be a major obstacle. But once these barriers are lowered, or better yet, removed, the benefits for businesses and employees flow, ”Associate Professor Szkudlarek said.

The guide was co-sponsored by the Crescent Foundation. The Foundation’s executive director, Dr Sayd Farook, said the development of the employers’ guide was a natural extension of the Foundation’s work to remove barriers to success for refugees and less well-off in society.

“Australian and multinational business leaders all recognize that diversity and inclusion make a significant contribution to the vitality and vitality of their workforce and communities,” said Dr Farook.

“We also know that companies recognize that refugees are an important part of this diversity because they bring many valuable traits that can attract employers, especially their courage and persistence. We hope that many more Australian companies will respond to our call to hire refugees as a special diversity category.

“This will create positive ripple effects not only for businesses but also for those new Australians who are settling here and contributing so much to our economy.”

Refugee aid in business in action

A year ago, IKEA partnered with Community Corporate to help create and implement the IKEA Skills for Employment program to overcome major barriers to employment for refugees.

The eight-week paid internship operates at 10 stores across Australia, including IKEA Tempe, Rhodes and Marsden Park. The program provides participants with an introduction to the Australian workplace, an introduction to IKEA working methods, job training, an opportunity to build confidence in English and a reference. The program aims to support 180 refugees and asylum seekers by mid-2023.

“Having a collaborative partner who worked with us to co-design the program and who was closely involved in all aspects of the implementation helped us make this program a success,” said Harriet. Pope, Job Skills Project Manager at IKEA.

With businesses performing up to 35% better with a diverse workforce than others, the program is proving to be mutually rewarding for IKEA through:

  • Access to a new pool of highly motivated, adaptable and loyal talent
  • The turnover rate of participants who stayed at IKEA is significantly lower than the average turnover rate of colleagues from IKEA Australia
  • The absenteeism rate of participants is significantly lower than the average absenteeism rate of colleagues from IKEA Australia
  • Creation of a more diverse work environment, allowing us to better meet the needs of our various clients
  • Learning and development opportunities for our colleagues when mentoring program participants
  • Increased employee engagement in the purpose of a business, building pride, trust and an inclusive culture


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