We provide an overview of the integration of refugees into the labor markets of a number of high-income countries. Discussing the ways in which refugees and economic migrants are differently selected and so might be expected to perform differently in a host country’s labor market, we examine employment and wages for these groups over time after arrival.
There is significant heterogeneity between host countries, but in general, refugees experience persistently worse outcomes than other migrants. While the gaps between the groups can be seen to decrease on a timescale of a decade or two, this is more pronounced in employment rates than it is in wages. We also discuss how refugees are distinct in terms of other factors affecting integration, including health, language skills, and social networks. We provide a discussion of insights for public policy in receiving countries, concluding that supporting refugees in early labor market attachment is crucial.
The prospects for successful integration depend not just on actions of the refugee or the immigrant but also on the openness and specific policy choices of the receiving community. Many recip- ient countries have put considerable effort and expense into measures targeted at supporting refugees’ absorption into their societies and economies, but it is not always clear that the outcomes of these policies are in line with prior expectations or justifications.