The Economic Contribution of Humanitarian Settlers in Australia



This article assesses the economic role of refugee settlers in Australia. Refugee-humanitarian labour force participation rates are lower than for other migrant groups or the Australia-born. However, their labour market performance converges toward that of the Australia-born over time. Moreover, the second generation performs at a higher level. There are a number of significant impediments to participation including language, education, structural disadvantage and discrimination. Indeed, there is evidence of a significant refugee gap which can only be explained by discrimination. It is shown that refugees represent a significant stock of human capital that is not being fully realized. They suffer more than other groups through non-recognition and there is substantial “brain waste” with negative results for the economy and the migrants themselves. Finally, it is shown that refugee-humanitarian settlers show greater propensity to form their own business than other migrants and that risk-taking, entrepreneurialism and an ability to identify and take advantage of opportunities is a key characteristic of the group.

Policy Implications

  • The international food security agenda needs to consider the growing challenge of feeding rapidly growing cities with large migrant populations
  • The reality of internal and international migration should be mainstreamed into the food security agendas of international organizations and states
  • Food security and insecurity should be configured into the global debate on migration and development
  • International, regional and municipal policies need to pay particular attention to the food insecurity of migrant populations in the cities of the South.