By Aaron Barbour
Today we launch a report commissioned by the Greater London Assembly and co-written with the Refugee Council about informal economic activities amongst refugees living in London. Download a copy here. This is the latest report we’re adding to our cash-in-hand / informal economy stable.
We’re in City Hall with the Deputy Mayor of London, Richard Barnes, for a roundtable discussion with a great group of policymakers and practioners, to examine the findings and think through how the recommendations could be implemented.
In December 2009, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, launched a three year strategy for refugee integration, London Enriched. He committed in the Employment, Skills and Enterprise chapter of the strategy to support an inquiry into London’s informal economy which would identify ways for refugees to enter mainstream employment and formalise their informal activity.
So, the GLA commissioned us at Community Links and the Refugee Council to conduct a small scoping study to examine the causes of informal economic activity within refugee communities and ascertain if there are ‘refugee-specific’ factors in relation to participation in the informal economy. This research is concerned with refugees who have permission to work in the UK, not those still in the asylum system or other types of migrants.
And what did we find?
A small proportion of the refugee population are working in the cash-in-hand or informal economy. The findings of this research reflect similar findings from research carried out about informal working in the population in general, i.e. non-refugee Londoners. Refugees appear to be doing informal work out of necessity as they are in poverty; partly due to the fact they face difficulties accessing the formal labour market.
There are several issues that trigger informal working in refugee communities – these include: insufficient knowledge of entitlement to support and benefits, language difficulties, unfamiliarity with the way that the UK job market operates, employers not understanding refugee entitlement to work, limited recognition of skills and experience gained outside of the EU, experiences of protracted periods without work during the asylum process and delays in receiving paperwork when refugee status is granted.
And what changes do we recommend?
- Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers should partner with specialist refugee community organisations to deliver tailored employment support that target refugee barriers to employment.
- Existing resources and guidance to employers and financial institutions on clarifying refugees current entitlement to work should be promoted through a reassurance campaign.
- Refugee status should become a criterion for full fee remission for ESOL provision funded by the Skills Funding Agency.
- New government initiatives to simplify regulations and processes, and support for business start-ups, should include specialist support to formalise informal businesses.
- A formalisation service should be piloted that helps individuals get their previous informal work experience acknowledged, without the fear of sanctions.
Have a read of the report and leave a comment if the findings chime with your own experience. If you’d like to get involved with taking the recommendations further then please do get in touch with me email@example.com