Today, the 20th of June is World Refugee Day, an international day to honour the strength and courage of refugees around the globe who have been forced to flee their home country to escape persecution.
World Refugee Day acknowledges the rights, needs and dreams of refugees, in the hope of mobilising resources so refugees can not only survive, but thrive. In the past decade, the number of people displaced from their home has doubled, from 41 million to 82.4 million.
Refugees not only leave their homes behind when they flee – they also leave behind their careers and businesses. This means that globally 108.4 million people are without their work, and their sense of purpose. The UNHCR plays a key role in helping displaced people find work or start their own businesses, helping refugees earn income while also instilling great dignity and confidence.
In Australia, the UNHCR partners with governments, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, civil society and refugee communities to raise funds so that refugees can be supported to achieve temporary or permanent re-settlement goals.
Whilst in Australia we can oftentimes feel removed from such realities, we can hold the key to providing solutions and a sense of belonging or inclusion for refugees. And as Australia’s biggest private-sector employer, retail has a vital support role to play in assisting with the building of a career in a new country.
As Former South Sudanese refugee and winner of 2023 Australia for UNHCR Award for Refugee Recognition the Anyier Yuol says, “you can’t be neutral when it comes to issues of human rights. It is the work of every individual…if you have the privilege and you have a voice, use it.”
So what can you do? Including refugees in the communities where they have found safety after fleeing conflict and persecution is the most effective way to support them in restarting their lives and enable them to contribute to the countries hosting them. It’s also the best way to prepare them to return home and rebuild their countries, when conditions allow them to do so safely and voluntarily, or to thrive if they are resettled in Australia.
A mutually beneficial way to promote this inclusion is by hiring refugees in your business. Recent research from the University of Sydney states the perceived benefits of hiring refugees often outweighs the challenges for employers seeking to hire them. Employers also currently lack knowledge regarding refugee employment, including how to identify and reach refugee job seekers and what government incentives are available.
We only need to look at IKEA for a positive Social Impact example with their partnership with Community Corporate to develop and implement the ‘Skills for Employment Program’. This program provides two month paid work placements for refugees in order to gain hands-on training and experience in the workplace.
Tomorrow (21st June) Community Corporate are hosting a panel with ARA members IKEA, Woolworths and the University of Sydney Business School, exploring the evolution of their refugee workforce pilot, to becoming a permanent pillar of recruitment in both companies. Register for the panel and join IKEA and Woolworths in changing the narrative around employment for refugees, and work toward building genuine and meaningful pathways for people in the Retail Industry.
If you would like to find out more about how your business can get involved in supporting the plight of refugees in Australia, and abroad, head to our tailor made website here. https://www.retail.org.au/refugees