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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 15:57 GMT
Asylum workers could help London
Asylum seekers
About 12% of refugees have university degrees

London's economy could be missing an opportunity to tap into the skills of asylum seekers living in the capital because of restrictions on their ability to work, say experts.

The London Development Agency says research suggests just a 1% increase in the number of refugees in work could help expand London's job market by twice that amount.

Maxine Jones, of the agency, said: "Unlike most of the US studies [into migration and the labour market] the situation in London could be that an increase in migration could create an increase in employment [among the host population].

The Home Office's own research suggested there could be a "multiplier effect" to the benefit of the capital if more refugees got into work, said Ms Jones, though more analysis needed to be done.

NHS shortages

The agency's prediction is in line with previous research that suggests new migrants fill job market gaps and tend to contribute more than they get back from the state.

Asylum seekers are currently banned from working until their cases are decided, a rule opposed by all major charities and agencies in the field.

On the one hand we have got skills shortages in London and on the other hand we have a group of people with skills

Maxine Jones
London Development Agency
Two employment sectors with major shortages in London, the NHS and IT industry, could immediately benefit from changes in the rules to bring asylum seekers into jobs, said Ms Jones.

She said the development agency, the body charged with helping overhaul the city's economy, was looking at how the NHS in particular could tap into the pool of unused labour.

"There is a barrier for many refugees in terms of their qualifications," Ms Jones told the London Assembly.

"They may have qualifications which are not recognised in this country and then find themselves having to effectively start again.

"On the one hand we have got skills shortages in London and on the other hand we have a group of people with skills. With a little support they could be in work."

North London study

Although there has been no comprehensive research into the refugees and employment in Britain, one survey last year looked at the situation in north London where at least 60,000 refugees and asylum seekers live.

Researchers from the Africa Education Trust and London Learning and Skills Council carried out in-depth interviewed more than 350 refugees and asylum seekers from five communities.

Eight out of 10 of those asked had completed their secondary education before they had left their own countries.

Some 12% had degrees, rising to more than a fifth among Somali refugees and asylum seekers.

In contrast, their experiences once in the UK were different. Among the Somalis interviewed, only a quarter of those with a professional background had found similar jobs in London.

They were four times more likely to be working in semi-skilled or manual labour jobs than would be expected given their education and employment experience.

There were similar proportions of people working in semi-skilled jobs across all the communities interviewed.


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See also:

25 Jul 02 | Politics
19 Dec 01 | Politics
06 Feb 01 | Politics
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