What are employment pathways? 

Employment pathways, otherwise known as labour mobility opportunities, are safe and regulated avenues that allow qualified refugees to enter or stay in another country to work, providing them with the right to either permanent or temporary residence. Thanks to these pathways, refugees can be safely admitted to a third country based on a concrete job offer or specific sector labour shortages while having their protection needs met and their rights safeguarded. 

Labour mobility programmes may be part of traditional immigration systems adapted to facilitate the admission of refugees with requisite skillsets on different levels. They may also include temporary and permanent skilled entry arrangements to support refugees. For programmes of this type to be sustained, it is essential to ensure proper travel documentation for legal entry and stay arrangements. Relevant protection safeguards throughout and following the duration of the refugees' employment and adequate access to information on access to a durable solution are equally important. 

A win-win situation  

When designed to cater to refugees' specific needs and protection safeguards, labour mobility programmes present a series of advantages for refugees, employers, and receiving societies. In particular: 

  • Benefits for refugees' self-reliance 

While labour mobility programmes may provide refugees with legal entry and stay arrangements, they can also support them in securing their future, boosting their self-reliance, and contributing to their own solutions. Through job opportunities, refugees have the chance to harness their skills and gain practical knowledge that can support them in rebuilding their lives in dignity and peace. 

At the same time, employment and economic self-reliance are essential factors in successful integration; they provide the means for economic stability and help refugees participate equally in the host society and develop solid relationships and social support networks. Also, the workplace provides opportunities for learning more about the local culture and can assist refugees in language learning.

  • Benefits for employers 

While skills shortages worldwide are becoming more and more acute, many highly skilled refugees lack access to employment opportunities. Refugees bring their unique skill set and knowledge, thus covering employment gaps, adding unique value to businesses and helping diversify their employee base. 

  • Benefits for countries 

Apart from benefiting refugees, labour mobility programmes can also benefit host countries. Refugees admitted through this pathway can support economic growth, development and innovation in their receiving society by using their talents and skills. Moreover, as employment supports refugee integration, it also facilitates the creation of cohesive and strong communities and can help eliminate discrimination. 

  • Other benefits 

When refugees get a job in a new country, they often support their wider family and community networks in their country of origin through remittance transfers. Also, by acquiring new skills and knowledge through employment, refugees can more effectively support post-conflict reconstruction in their home country if they wish to return. 

Partnerships to expand opportunities for refugees 

UNHCR collaborates with States and a wide range of organisations, actors and stakeholders to expand the number of employment opportunities for refugees and facilitate access to them by removing practical, legal and administrative obstacles. UNHCR also works to enable partnerships that provide qualified refugees more opportunities to move to another country for work purposes. 

An example of such a partnership is with Talent Beyond Boundaries. This civil-society initiative has developed the Talent Catalogue, a talent register to facilitate employment in third countries through labour mobility schemes. To date, the programme has enabled international recruitment of refugees working together with employers and governments in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. 

Bahati, Micheline and Agnesin's story

Thanks to an innovative program connecting employers with qualified refugees, Bahati, Micheline and Agnesin were offered jobs as continuing care assistants in a long-term care facility in Nova Scotia, Canada. 

Read their story here

Ibrahim's story

After nine years living in Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, Ibrahim was successful in applying for a skilled workers visa and job opportunity to work in the UK. 

Learn more about his story here.