Ethiopia insights: Displaced job seekers ready and eager to meet the needs of Canadian employers

Muhsin is a talented nurse living in Ethiopia. In 2023, he’ll arrive in Canada to  join Chancellor Park, a long-term continuing care facility in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I’m an artist and a carpenter. My dream is to be an engineer.”

“My wish is to join a telecom in human resources.”

“My dream job is to support individuals in finding their way into entrepreneurship.”

“I have a dream of becoming a gynaecologist.”

“I want to study international relations and help other refugees. I want to help my people.”

This April, members of the TalentLift team had the opportunity to speak with a few of the many talented candidates who are living in displacement in Ethiopia. With the support of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Ethiopia, we were able to hear about the challenges they face and the dreams of a better future for themselves and their families that keep them hopeful. Ethiopia is host to over 823,000 people registered as refugees, although the number is likely higher when accounting for those not yet registered.

Among those who we met were a group of registered nurses, including nurses specializing in mental health support, teachers, entrepreneurs, business and management professionals, statisticians and data analysts, artists, carpenters and other skilled tradespeople, and software developers. Across their varied skill sets and educational backgrounds, a commonality is their immense talent and their desire to put these talents, and their education, to good use. 

Unfortunately, this has not been possible for almost all of the candidates we spoke with, and data from Refugees International’s 2022 Global Refugee Work Rights Report shows that these experiences are sadly the norm. 

In this study, Refugees International surveyed the work rights, both in law and in practice, of 51 countries that together host approximately 87% of the global refugee population (as of December 2021). Their findings were disheartening, with each of these 51 countries imposing barriers to work rights. Alarmingly, the study showed that more than 55% of the refugee population lives in countries that “significantly restrict refugees’ work rights in practice” and none of these 51 countries gave refugees equitable access to the labour market. This is even the case in the majority of countries that had laws put in place to ensure fair access to employment for people living as refugees. In fact, the study found huge gaps between the right to work as stated by the law and actual experiences in trying to access employment.

The candidates we met with are all too familiar with these barriers, and shared other challenges they face in accessing education and documentation. Despite these challenges, many had pursued higher education or learned a skilled trade, and all had persisted in the hopes of future opportunities.

One of the opportunities they were most eager to discuss was Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP). They had heard that Canada is a country that provides opportunities for refugees and that they could be valued for their hard-won knowledge and abilities. We share their vision of being uplifted for their achievements and are proud to be part of the Canadian government’s work making skilled visas more accessible. As part of this growing work, Canada will launch a new federal immigration pathway in June that will expand the EMPP and allow more people living as refugees to access the program and more Canadian employers to hire through it. 

More information about this exciting expansion can be found here. We look forward to supporting a lot more employers across Canada to find and relocate talented new colleagues through the EMPP. 

In discussing his career, one candidate shared his concern that many people living as refugees have gaps in their career and that their career continuity has been “broken.” Reflecting on this, he said, “maybe some employers are keen to hear our stories and empathize with our situation, but this doesn’t happen every day.”

Our hope is that, more and more, this can and will happen every day. 

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