Refugees important to Minnesota’s workforce

Employers who hire refugees see lower turnover and choose from a wider pool of potential employees. That’s what a new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Tent Partnership for Refugees finds. This finding is especially relevant for a state like Minnesota with both a tightening labor market and a history of welcoming refugees. Some 18,800 refugees have been placed here in Minnesota over the past 10 years, most to the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

The report, Refugees as Employees: Good Retention, Strong Recruitment, comes at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration is cutting back on refugee resettlement, despite the record number of refugees around the world. We know that refugees do well in the U.S. once they have time to settle in, and this report shows that refugees are good for employers too.

The new report is based on over 100 interviews of employers of refugees, refugees, resettlement staff, and others around the country, as well as existing data sources like the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey. Here are some of the findings:

  • Nearly three-quarters of the firms surveyed saw lower turnover rates among their employees who were refugees than for their company overall, and these lower turnover rates were present across industries. For example, in manufacturing, average annual refugee turnover was 4 percent, compared to 11 percent overall.
  • Lower turnover was good for companies. The report notes that the cost to replace an employee was about one-fifth of that worker’s salary. That’s more than $5,000 for the typical worker covered by the report’s surveys. The savings from lower turnover can be invested instead in the business.
  • Employers often saw overall improvements in their workplace after refugees were hired. For example, making hiring choices with the expectation of doing some on-the-job training opened opportunities to more refugee and non-refugee candidates. Similarly, making instructions clearer to workers who don’t speak English well was also helpful for native English speakers.

Refugees are important members of our communities and our economy. This report is a good reminder that refugees come to this country fleeing dangerous circumstances, and settle in and make important contributions to our workforce.

-Clark Goldenrod

About Clark Goldenrod

Clark Goldenrod is the Minnesota Budget Project's senior policy analyst.
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