Knappert, L.; Ortlieb, R.; Kornau, A.; Maletzky de García, M. & van Dijk, H. (2023). The ecosystem of managing refugee employment: Complementarity and its microfoundations. Academy of Management Discoveries, 9(3).
Finding formal and stable employment in the local economy is a crucial step in the integration of refugees. In highly regulated high-income countries, multiple actors are involved in managing refugee employment and offer support to overcome its various barriers. Our research breaks new ground by focusing on the dynamics between these actors. We conducted 80 interviews with refugees, employers, governments, employer associations, refugee support organizations, and public employment services in three Western European countries. We conceive of the field as a refugee employment ecosystem in which complementarity is the key mechanism that aligns the various actors’ activities to achieve the goal of refugee employment. Complementarity means that actors not only fulfill their different roles but also step in, fill gaps, and add to others’ activities. Three microfoundations undergird this complementarity: individuals’ motives, responsiveness, and perseverance. By showing how refugee employment ecosystems are inhabited and sustained by individuals whose activities go beyond their assigned actor roles, we contribute to theory development in research on refugee employment and help to humanize theorizing about ecosystems at large. We also offer practical guidance on how to increase the resilience of refugee employment ecosystems.