By Rochelle Stewart-Allen, HOST Senior Manager New Zealand

HOST International is delighted to be welcoming British economist Philippe Legrain to New Zealand in August 2018. This is a unique opportunity to hear a critically acclaimed thinker and writer present his research on the economic value of welcoming and employing refugees.


Philippe’s research shows that for every $1 invested in welcoming refugees, a return of $2 can be expected within five years. This challenges the false narrative that welcoming refugees creates a drain on our welfare system, something often used to justify why we can’t welcome more refugees to our shores.

With New Zealand set to double its intake quota of refugees from 750 to 1,500 by 2020, now is the ideal time for us to look at how we resettle former refugees into our country. Employment is a key factor that helps resettled Kiwis rebuild their lives and that of their families.

For anyone who has known or worked alongside resettled Kiwis, you will know just how much expertise they bring; which is currently under-utilised in New Zealand. With more than 30% of refugees arriving here with professional qualifications and experience, we are doing a disservice to the individuals and business community by not introducing their skills into our economy.

Instead, by majority, former refugees struggle to gain employment that reflects their expertise. They are often under-employed or unemployed. These resettled Kiwis experience a lack of recognition of their prior skills and experience, their overseas qualifications, and the kind of skills-matching that would enable them to work here in New Zealand.

Some former refugees do dirty, difficulty, dangerous and dull jobs that local Kiwis don’t want to do, such as cleaning offices and caring for the elderly. Higher-skilled former refugees provide different and complementary skills that fill gaps in the labour market and enhance Kiwi productivity. Enterprising former refugees start new businesses that create wealth, employ locals, and boost international trade and investment.

Philippe Legrain’s clear message is that welcoming refugees is not just a humanitarian and legal obligation, but it is an investment that can yield many economic dividends.

Former refugees have a lot to contribute as workers, entrepreneurs, innovators, taxpayers, consumers and investors. With suitable upfront investment and wise policies, welcoming refugees can yield substantial economic dividends.

Philippe’s research includes Refugees Work: A humanitarian investment that yields economic dividends and Step Up: How to get refugees into work quickly.

Keen to hear Philippe speak while he’s in New Zealand? You can check out the HOST International event page for more details.