What Skills do Somali Refugees Bring With Them?


To get a better idea of why refugees have difficulties getting employment, we interviewed 90 Somali (35 men, 55 women) about their employment histories prior to resettlement in New Zealand and their experiences of employment in New Zealand. Close investigation of employment histories showed that most had numerous skills and that a large number had previously run their own businesses (mostly import/export). However, we that found several properties of their prior skills did not transfer well to their current setting due to language, cultural, and environmental issues. In particular, previous business owners relied heavily on informal language use to influence customers and sellers; many relied on informal social networking over different countries; many depended heavily on informal negotiation; they had trade routes over land rather than sea; they traded goods specific to the region; they ran informal economies on the side; and businesses had few government rules and legal requirements to meet. We make some new suggestions that might help overcome these more subtle difficulties and form the basis for future research interventions

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