A young woman sitting in a waiting room wearing a jacket that says Sydney Australia

Bridging the refugee employment gap

How can Australian employers overcome the 'canvas ceiling'?
Associate Professor Betina Szkudlarek's research shows employers are eager to work with refugees, but many don't know where to begin. Not-for-profits and social enterprises can help bridge the gap.

Refugees are often forced to flee their home countries with no time to prepare for relocation, let alone to think about an employment strategy.

Research by Dr Betina Szkudlarek, Associate Professor in Management, along with her team, Dr Luciara Nardon, Eun Su Lee and Duc Cuong Nguyen, investigates refugee labour integration. Their work identifies that refugees face what they call a "canvas ceiling" of systemic barriers when looking for employment. While many businesses are enthusiastic about employing refugees, many aren't sure how to go about it.

Infographic detailing over 30 not-for-profits that bridge refugees and employers


In Australia, there are a number of organisations such as Settlement Services International, AMES Australia and Refugee Talent that bridge the gap between refugees and businesses. They offer services that assist businesses throughout all stages of recruitment, from finding and screening candidates to training and mentoring.

Employers can reach out to one of these organisations for help with refugee employment, as they offer tailor-made solutions for recruitment and raising awareness. This is an opportunity for businesses to be part of the solution to the refugee crisis while meeting their own business needs.

Research Highlights with Associate Professor Betina Szkudlarek 

Overcoming the canvas ceiling: promoting refugee employment

To find practical resources on how employers can improve refugee workforce integration, please visit the following websites:

Lee ES, Szkudlarek B, Nguyen DC, and Nardon L 2020 'Unveiling canvas ceiling: A multidisciplinary literature review and research agenda of refugee employment and workforce integration', International Journal of Management Reviews, 22(2), 193-216

Lee ES, Szkudlarek B, Nguyen DC and Nardon L 2018 'Elephant in the room: IHRM and refugee workforce integration', Australia and New Zealand International Business Academy (ANZIBA) Conference, Brisbane, Australia, 2nd February 2018

Nardon L, Zhang H, Szkudlarek B, and Gulanowski D 2020 'Identity work in refugee workforce integration: The role of newcomer support organizations.' Human Relations. In-press

Nardon L, Zhang H, Szkudlarek B and Gulanowski D 2018 Forthcoming 'Supporting refugee workforce integration: the paradox of managing expectations and supporting professional identities', European Academy of Management (EURAM) Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland, 22nd June 2018

Nardon L, Zhang H, Szkudlarek B and Gulanowski D 2018 'Employment support and refugee workforce integration', 11th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS), Ottawa, Canada, 25th May 2018

Roy PA, Szkudlarek B, and Caprar DV 2020 'Refugees and Cross-Cultural Management Studies'. In B Szkdularek, L Romani, DV Caprar and J Osland (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of contemporary cross-cultural management (Ch. 30). Sage Publications.

Szkudlarek B 2019 'Engaging business in refugee employment: the employer's perspective.' Sydney, Australia: The University of Sydney Business School

Szkudlarek B, Nardon L, Osland J, Adler N and Lee ES 2019 'When context matters: What happens to international theory when researchers study refugees.' Academy of Management Perspectives. In-press.

30 May 2018