Most young Syrian refugees are in work or studying, research says

Around two-thirds of young Syrian refugees in Britain are either in work or studying, latest figures show.

The British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Newcastle heard today [Thursday 12 April] about research carried out among the 7,300 Syrian refugees resettled in the UK since 2015.

A research team from the University of Glasgow, including Dr Georgios Karyotis, Dr Gareth Mulvey and Dr Dimitris Skleparis, surveyed 484 of the refugees who were aged 18 to 32. They reported that:

  • 52% of the 484 were married, and 43% had children with them in the UK; 90% were Arab Syrians and 8% were Kurds; 91% were Muslim.
  • 27% were university graduates and 28% had intermediate level education.
  • 27% were in employment, 36% were students and 14% were homemakers; 19% said they were unemployed and searching for a job.
  • 55% said that their main barrier to labour market access was language.
  • Just 2% said that they were unemployed and looking for a job six months before leaving Syria. Before they came to Britain, 40% of those surveyed were students and over a third were in employment; 41% said they were unable to complete their studies due to the conflict.
  • 77% said they were planning to remain in the UK.

The researchers found that the refugees were generally positive about living in the UK: 57% said they were hopeful about the future, 45% said they were happy, and 26% that they were confident. However, 22% said they were anxious, 11% that they were sad, and 10% that they were afraid.

When asked about how Britons felt about them 25% said they thought Britons were anxious; and 19% thought Britons were afraid. However, 22% thought Britons were happy and 16% thought Britons were hopeful.

Dr Skleparis told the conference: “Our research debunks the myth that many Syrians are reluctant to participate in the labour market and are taking advantage of social welfare provisions.

“In fact, despite the language barrier, an often interrupted education and experiences of trauma, less than one in five is unemployed and looking for work, while most of the rest are either students, in work or looking after children.

“Young Syrian refugees in the UK are highly educated and skilled, with high aspirations, who want to settle in the UK and are very grateful for the support and welcome they have received.”

When the refugees were asked what they would like to say to Britons, one said: “We have the skills and education needed to start a new life and to help further improve this country, so we are just asking you to have faith in us, in our abilities and good intentions.

Another said: “Tolerance and acceptance of the Other needs courage and compassion, two traits British citizens have often shown. Therefore, please give Syrians the helping hand in the time of need.”

The Syrian refugees came to Britain through either as asylum seekers or were resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme.

  • Since the Syrian civil war began, 5.1 million people have fled the country, with 3 million now living in Turkey and 1 million in Lebanon. In 2015 the British government agreed to take 20,000 refugees over a five-year period; as of March 2017, 7,307 have been resettled in the UK. 

For more information, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392


  1. The University of Glasgow’s research findings are based on 1,511 surveys with young Syrian international protection beneficiaries and applicants, 18-32 years old, which were conducted in the UK, Lebanon and Greece, between April and October 2017, within the context of the ‘Building Futures: Aspirations of Syrian Youth Refugees and Host Population Responses in Lebanon, Greece and the UK’ research project. Funding for this project has been allocated from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), in a joint call by the ESRC and AHRC (Award Ref:  ES/P005179/1). For more information about the project see
  2. The British Sociological Association’s annual conference takes place at Northumbria University, Newcastle, from 10 to 12 April 2018. Over 700 research presentations are given. The British Sociological Association’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235