On 22 February 2018, CPD convened the first meeting of the Council on Economic Participation for Refugees (the Council), hosted by the Boston Consulting Group in Melbourne.
The Council is the first pillar of CPD’s new Cities and Settlement Initiative (CSI).
The Council brings together key federal and state government officials with service providers, international experts and the metropolitan and regional cities that are settling the most refugees. We are focused on building integrated service delivery to improve the economic participation of refugees.
The objectives of the inaugural Council meeting were threefold:
- Establish a common understanding of the barriers to refugee employment, through updated CPD-BCG analysis of refugee employment outcomes and of the current employment services landscape;
- Initiate discussion about a range of more effective responses to overcome these barriers; and
- Agree on the goals, activities and cadence of meetings for the Council.
Key issues discussed at the Council can be encapsulated within six inter-related themes:
- Gender – women face a disproportionate number of barriers to economic participation although currently no government-led employment programs specifically focus on women’s needs.
- Employment Services – existing employment services struggle to generate better outcomes for the most disadvantaged jobseekers, with jobactive failing to respond adequately to the needs of refugees.
- Language – poor English-language proficiency is a significant barrier to employment, but employment and language programs are not integrated.
- Skills Recognition – problems with recognition and the cost of certification of humanitarian migrant skills contribute to skilled refugees being un- or under-employed.
- Local Knowledge and Coordination – local governments and local networks could be better leveraged to assist the settlement and employment journey of humanitarian refugees.
- Engaging Employers – employers aren’t sufficiently engaged with services or with policy design/delivery to understand barriers and opportunities to refugee recruitment, including work experience.
Responses to reduce or overcome the barriers identified were discussed, narrowing in on three areas:
- Employment services and the need to reform existing models – a personalised, whole-of-career and whole-of-family approach, changing the funding model, and building provider capability.
- Enhancing the role of local government in coordinating settlement and employment services – local government can facilitate access to local employer and social networks using a place-based approach.
- Improving provision of language services – English language training has been found to work best when it is practice-based, delivered within a workplace and/or built into other activities.
Participants were enthusiastic about continuing and further developing the Council, noting the unique assembly of perspectives and the great potential for driving policy and practice reform in this important area.
Working groups of Council members are forming around central themes to: develop a further understanding of issues; seek further information as necessary; and work through policy and practice responses in more detail.
CPD provides secretariat support to the Council, with the ongoing assistance of the Boston Consulting Group.