ILO Response to Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon

By 2016, over 1.0 million registered Syrian refugees resided Lebanon with official estimates at over 1.5 million, over a quarter of Lebanon’s estimated 4.3 million native residents.1,2 The sheer scale of the influx relative to Lebanon’s population has severely affected the socioeconomic situation in the country and prompted unprecedented restrictions on Syrians entering the country in late-2014. As a result of the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon, by 2015 an estimated 170,000 Lebanese had fallen into poverty, unemployment had doubled to around 20 percent and economic losses of some US$7.5 billion had been incurred.3 At the same time, only around half of Syrian refugees are economically active and just one-third have access to overwhelmingly informal and low-skilled employment.4 

The nature of the international community’s response is also changing. As the number of Syrian refugees entering Lebanon begun to plateau in late-2014, international agencies and the Government of Lebanon have started to phase out humanitarian assistance in favour of a development-focused response targeting refugees and host community residents alike.5 

The ILO Response

In order to provide an appropriate response to the Syrian refugee crisis in the Lebanese context, the ILO Regional Office for the Arab States implements a strategy that builds on existing programmes in Lebanon through three inter-related components which:
  • Assess the impact of the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon on decent work;
  • enhance access to employment opportunities and livelihoods in host communities; and
  • combat the worst forms of child labour and unacceptable forms of work.
Accordingly, the ILO has been active in on four areas of grassroots- and policy-level interventions to:
  • Develop local economies in Northern Lebanon’s host communities. In cooperation with local stakeholders, the ILO has identified the vegetable sector for development and some 50,000 beneficiaries are estimated to benefit from ongoing Local Economic Development initiatives.
  • Provide policy direction to deal with the Syrian Refugee Crisis by producing actionable evidence-based studies on the crisis in Lebanon. So far the ILO has produced seminal assessments on the magnitude and attributes or Syrian labour on the labour market in general as well as child labour in specific.
In 2017, the ILO's interventions will continue on the basis of the following components:

Component 1: Assess the impact of the Syrian Refugee Crisis on decent work

Evidence of the causes and consequences of any crisis are required if the response is to be effective. As such, the ILO has engaged in various research activities, both within and outside of the Organization, to provide all actors working on the Syrian refugee crisis with evidence-based information to adequately respond to the needs of refugees and host community residents. The ILO’s activities include the compilation of labour market assessments and participation in UN-wide economic and social impact assessments.

Component 2: Enhance access to employment opportunities and livelihoods in host communities

As refugees spend greater amounts of time in host communities across Lebanon, the social and economic fabric often changes too rapidly for market forces and social structures to adapt. As a result, adverse socioeconomic consequences ranging from fewer employment opportunities, lower wages, and higher consumer prices to a deterioration of social cohesion and stability begin to take hold. The ILO’s response has been to launch participatory projects and initiatives that spur Local Economic Development and add value to key local job-rich productive sectors in Lebanon.

Component 3: Combat the worst forms of child labour and unacceptable forms of work

The Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon has already intensified economic hardship of Syrian refugee and host community residents to unprecedented levels. Increased economic vulnerability has pushed many refugees and host community residents into unacceptable forms of work, particularly child labour and its worst forms. As a result, the ILO has launched the National Action Plan to Combat the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016 alongside other initiatives to measure and respond to the extent of the worst forms of child labour in Lebanon.

[1] UNHCR. 2016. Syrian Regional Refugee Response Inter-Agency Information Sharing Portal. Available at:
[2] World Bank Development Indicators. Available at: Data employed represents estimates before adjusting for the Syrian refugee crisis.
[3] World Bank. 2013. Economic and Social Impact of the Syrian Conflict. (Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Department Middle East and North Africa Region).
[4] ILO. 2014. Assessment of the Impact of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon and their Employment Profile.
[5] Government of Lebanon and the United Nations. December 2015. Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2015-2016 - Year Two.

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