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06 May

Syrian Refugee Employment Trends in Jordan

A recent publication by the West Asia-North Africa (WANA) Institute provides insight into Syrian refugee employment trends in Jordan. Are Syrians employed in their preferred sector? Can the labour market absorb all Syrian workers? And how do Syrian workers feel about a potential return to post-conflict Syria? The report received funding from SPARK.

Since 2016, Jordan has provided limited worker rights to Syrian refugees in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, food and beverage services, and wholesale and retail trade. Despite efforts to integrate Syrian refugee labour into the formal economy, the capacity of the Jordanian labour market to absorb such a large number of new workers is limited.

More Syrians Active in Jordan’s Labour Market than Pre-Conflict Syria

Unemployment and underemployment of the Syrian population remains a concern. In August 2017, a study of 501 Syrian refugees in Amman, Irbid, Mafraq, and Zarqa conducted by Ipsos, found that only 30 per cent of working age respondents were employed. 

However, the WANA Institute report points out that a larger proportion of Syrians is active in the Jordanian labour market than in pre-conflict Syria. 49 per cent of respondents indicated having worked in Jordan, while only 43 per cent had previously been employed in Syria.

34 per cent of respondents expressed an increase in motivation to work since arriving in Jordan. A follow-up interview-based survey conducted by Ipsos in October 2017 suggests that this may largely be the result of heightened financial need.

Skills Alignment

According to the WANA Institute study, roughly 57 per cent of employed Syrian refugees are currently working in the same sector as in pre-conflict Syria. The construction sector showed the highest degree of alignment, while the agriculture sector has experienced the lowest.

Professional training offered to Syrian refugees in Jordan appears to be very limited: 80 per cent of respondents had received no training for their current or previous occupation. A large number of interviewees also noted skills gaps within their industry.

Technical and vocational education programmes in Jordan are available through the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour as well as through certain private vendors, international and non-government organisations. Since 2011, refugee enrolment in community colleges has also steadily increased.

Return to Post-Conflict Syria

The Syrian economy has been devastated as a result of more than 6 years of conflict. The World Bank estimates that the cumulative loss in GDP over the past six years has been close to USD 226 billion, and the cost of reconstruction could total between USD 200 and 350 billion.

Only 26 per cent of the surveyed respondents believe they will be able to return to their sector of employment without disadvantage in a post-conflict Syria. The researchers attribute this lack of confidence to the perception that opportunities will be limited rather than a fear that skills erosion will prevent them from reintegrating in the labour market.

Analysts have highlighted the need for a holistic approach to the reconstruction effort that targets supply chains and markets as well as infrastructure and industry. Potential industrial sub-sectors where Syria could develop a competitive advantage may include the chemical and processed foods sectors, as well as the automotive, engineering and electronics, plastic and rubber, textile and garment, and wood and furniture sectors.

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