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Skilled refugees locked out of UK workforce despite skills shortage

"Stop the Inhumanity at Europe's Borders", at the Central Hall in London, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024.
"Stop the Inhumanity at Europe's Borders", at the Central Hall in London, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. Copyright Kin Cheung/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Kin Cheung/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Tamsin Paternoster
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More than one in five senior managers in the United Kingdom believe UK citizens should be given preference for job vacancies, research shows.

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A report has found that skilled refugees are being turned down for positions in the UK's job market due to prejudice, despite a long-running and serious nationwide skills shortage. 

After surveying 500 senior managers and individual with hiring responsibilities, business diversity and inclusion consultancy Pearn Kandola found that prejudice towards British candidates is keeping them out of the UK's job market.

More than one in five senior managers believed that British citizens should be given preference for job vacancies, while 21% of those questioned revealed that they did not think refugees would have the same work ethic as British citizens. 

This prejudice extends to how those responsible for hiring in the UK were unaware of the steps needed to hire someone with a refugee background.

Among those interviewed, 40% admitted they weren't sure of the law around hiring refugees, while 37% said they were not aware of the current rules around non-British citizens. 

Overqualified and underemployed

After interviewing 20 refugees between 21 and 41, Pearn Kandola found that the majority were forced to take roles that were irrelevant to their qualifications. 

This is despite the fact that many have qualifications in fields that are on the "sought-after occupations list" published by the British government, among them dentistry and teaching. 

The British government has said that those who have qualifications in highly sought-after areas can apply for a skilled worker visa.

Al, 33, found that when he came to the UK in 2015 from Sudan he struggled to find work, despite having a diploma in engineering.

Although he enrolled in and graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Sheffield University, Al found that he was widely rejected in his field of expertise. He believes that his refugee status and subsequent gaps in his CV prevented him from getting to the interview stage.

Skills shortage in the United Kingdom

These findings come as the UK is found to be the only major European economy whose workforce remains around or below pre-pandemic levels. 

Think tank UK in a Changing Europe has argued that the UK's economic stagnation is attributable to a number of factors, among them the NHS's slow recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. 

A report by the Learning and Work Institute found in 2019 that the UK skills shortage will cost the country £120 billion by 2030.

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