Scott McDonald Editorial on Refugee Employment in the Financial Times

Feb 8, 2016

Oliver Wyman Group President & CEO Scott McDonald wrote an editorial for publication in the Financial Times.

Entitled "Help refugees into work to solve the integration problem," the OpEd suggests that minimum wages may be good for native workers but are less so for migrants.

Scott writes that "A perverse effect of modern liberalism is that it hinders the integration of migrants. It is not, for example, liberal to tell migrants where to live. But housing policy and immigrants’ preferences to join compatriots means they often live — and are educated — separately from the native population."

Scott goes on to say that paid work would help integration, if only employment policy did not get in the way. Scott later writes about the experience Oliver Wyman has had in recruiting refugees for employment:

My company, the management consultancy Oliver Wyman, has been trying to help refugees through support we provide to our clients and to governments. We have helped NGOs deal with the implications of dealing with thousands more refugees than they have been set up to handle. Working with an NGO in France, for example, we have designed a mentorship programme for refugees seeking work.

We are also seeking to hire refugees directly into Oliver Wyman offices across Europe, for consulting roles as well as jobs in HR or other areas. We have designed a process to evaluate refugee candidates, given the different nature of the qualifications from the Middle East. This requires us to take more risk as we do not always fully understand the value of those educational or work experiences. To date, our European offices have hired three people, from Syria and Iraq. Two are in consultant roles and one is an administrative assistant.

We have encountered many obstacles to get this far. Refugee organisations are overwhelmed and have little time to source employment opportunities. Some have not been able to provide us with a single CV. Going directly to refugees through job centres, local communities or religious groups does not feel practical for any single employer.

Even once we have made a job offer, there is an onerous legal process to secure work permits, making the hiring process time consuming and potentially expensive. This raises an additional hurdle around the perception of the fairness of hiring refugees rather than local people in need of work.

NGOs and state agencies that deal with refugees urgently need more people and more money to support getting new arrivals into employment. Training in résumé writing, interview techniques, language classes, how to approach to job searches and cultural norms would be valuable. The quicker that refugees become economically productive, the weaker the arguments that they are burden on society.

Read the full editorial on the FT.com.

Learn more about Oliver Wyman's Refugee Response