Launch of the ILO Report "Digital Refugee Livelihoods and Decent Work - Towards inclusion in a fairer digital economy"

The digitization of the world of work is fundamentally transforming how refugees can make a livelihood and obtain employment. A rapidly expanding global digital economy harbours countless new opportunities but it also poses a range of challenges and risks. A new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) now explores the growing role of digital economies for refugees, including case studies from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

Event jointly organized by the ILO’s Labour Migration Branch (MIGRANT), the Programme Improving Prospects for Host Communities and Forcibly Displaced Persons (PROSPECTS) and the Employment, Labour Markets and Youth Branch (EMPLAB).


Moderation: Iva Gumnishka, Founder of Humans in the Loop.
  • Welcoming remarks: Christiane Kuptsch, Senior Specialist in Migration Policy, ILO MIGRANT.
  • Introduction and summary of findings:Andreas Hackl, Lecturer in Anthropology of Development at the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh.

  • Digital skills training: a pathway to decent work for refugees?
    Rabih Shibli, Director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB);
    and Sarah Kouzi, Programs Manager at the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) at the AUB.

  • Digital connectivity and entrepreneurship in refugee camps and settlements
    Faheem Hussain, Clinical Assistant Professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, College of Global Futures, Arizona State University;
    and Jared Owuor, Regional Operations Officer at Samuel Hall. Watch his presentation

  • Refugee work in the digital economy: Emma Samman, Research Associate with the Overseas Development Institute and an independent consultant.

  • Inside perspective:Ousama Suleiman, Syrian refugee, former freelancer and current facilitator of refugee online work.

  • Outlook: PROSPECTS partnership: future outlook and new research into digital economies among refugees: Drew Gardiner, Technical Specialist, ILO EMPLAB.


Digitalisation is rapidly changing the character of work around the world. Technological advances will create new jobs and opportunities while making others obsolete. New skills are required as old ones expire.

As digital inequalities are becoming more ingrained and insidious, they leave those without resources ever further behind. Digital work can contribute to strong disparities related to geographic location, whereby workers in emerging nations are most affected by uneven Internet connectivity, time zones, language, security, and pay mechanisms. To harness the positive potential of this digital transformation for the future of work and reduce its harmful impact, global action and planning must give more attention to populations that are economically and politically marginalized, such as refugees.

The current digital transformation has far-reaching implications for forcibly displaced persons and many other migrants who are in search of employment and come under pressure to secure a livelihood for themselves and their families. Without coordinated action, a digitized and increasingly cashless future of work poses existential threats to the displaced and uprooted, whose livelihood often depends on informal jobs, who are frequently excluded from access to bank accounts or electronic payment mechanisms, and who must often accept exploitative working conditions in exchange for any kind of income. .

About the report

Digital refugee livelihoods and decent work: Towards inclusion in a fairer digital economy (Executive summary).
This report offers the first comparative global assessment of the emerging field of digital livelihoods and digital work among refugees. In this report, a diverse collective of authors offers insights from pioneering research on the possibilities and the limitations of digital work and digitally mediated livelihoods. In doing so, we build on the ILO’s centenary initiative on the Future of Work and its research on decent work in the digital economy. The report focuses on digital skills and digital labour among refugees living in a variety of host countries around the world, where they are often one of the most vulnerable groups in the labour market. At the same time, some of the research includes a diversity of forcibly displaced persons, including IDPs, as well as other migrants and host community members, who come to see the digital economy as a promising alternative to often exploitative and restrictive local labour markets.

Part 1 focuses on the role of digital skills training as a pathway to decent work for refugees and migrants in Lebanon and Germany.
Part 2 discusses digital livelihoods and connectivity in refugee settlements and camp settings.
Part 3 puts the spotlight on the experience of refugees working on digital labour platforms and in the gig economy.