Women refugees have more difficulty finding work and suffer greater health problems than their male counterparts, new research shows

Posted on Thursday 25th April 2013

A major new study carried out by experts from the University of Birmingham and Cardiff University found that women refugees living in the UK experienced worse physical and emotional health than men.

The report, funded by The Nuffield Foundation and entitled Social Networks, social capital and refugee integration, noted: “Compelling evidence of a striking gender difference in emotional and physical health.”

It also found that “despite relatively high levels of pre-migration employment, women fare much worse than men in all types of employment, across all sweeps”.

Female refugees were more likely to be found in “feminised roles” such as personal service, sales and customer service.

Dr Jenny Phillimore, one of the co-authors of the report, said: “It’s very worrying to find that women are faring so badly, particularly when many arrive with high-level skills. It shows we need to make much more effort to ensure that women refugees integrate more successfully”.

“In particular we need to focus on providing good quality language lessons for women. There is clear evidence that women need and want to attend English language classes but are often unable to, possibly because of the lack of childcare provision”.

The report also found that despite concerns surrounding the self-segregation of migrants, refugees who had good family, social or religious networks were actually better able to integrate into their new community.

Dr Phillimore said: “There has been a great deal of rhetoric and concern about migrants who allegedly arrive in the UK and develop networks within their peer groups and fail to integrate into their local community and into society more generally”.

"Our research clearly demonstrates that all kinds of social networks promote refugee integration. In fact it is the absence of any social networks that operates as a barrier to integration rather than the type of network. Therefore we need to move away from discussion about which type of network is beneficial and instead focus on supporting new refugees to develop connections with their peers as these will, as we have shown, lead to connections in the community and to better employment prospects."

The research re-analysed Home Office data collected from all new refugees between 2005 and 2009. It also utilized the findings from an e-survey with 233 respondents to identify integration priorities of refugees, practitioners, researchers and policy makers.

For more information please contact the University of Birmingham press office +44 (0) 121 414 602 or email pressoffice@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Note to Editors

1. The full report can be downloaded here.  Download a copy of the Executive Summary (PDF).

2. The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. The Nuffield Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. More information is available at www.nuffieldfoundation.org.