ILO Study

Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan highlights urgency of fundamental job market issues

The adverse labour market effects of Syrian refugees working in Jordan can be averted or reversed with comprehensive measures.

News | 30 April 2014
AMMAN (ILO News) – The Syrian refugee crisis is accentuating the need to tackle pre-existing labour market issues in Jordan, said an ILO report. These challenges focus on high Jordanian youth unemployment as well as the prevalence of low-quality and low-productivity jobs.

The report, The Impact of the Syrian refugee Crisis on the Labour Market in Jordan: A Preliminary Analysis, found that the extent to which Syrians have displaced Jordanian workers has been limited. Unemployment has not increased in the governorates which host most Syrian refugees. However, the economic activity rate of Syrians (48.5 per cent) is estimated to be higher than Jordanians (36.5 per cent) and male Syrian refugees are working informally in sectors not traditionally attractive to Jordanians, such as agriculture and construction.

Holistic approach needed

“It’s important to remember that employment conditions for a significant proportion of Jordanians were already dire prior to the arrival of Syrian refugees,” said Mary Kawar, Senior Employment Specialist at the ILO Regional Office for the Arab States.

“Therefore, any approach to address the labour market impact of the Syrian refugee crisis has to take on [a] holistic approach in terms of the rights of Syrian refugees to live in dignity and have access to livelihoods, the need for Jordanians to have access to decent jobs, and for both to have social peace,’’ Kawar added.

The report emphasised that since the Jordanian economy is characterized by small informal enterprises, Syrian refugees are likely to be gradually integrated into the job market over time as they develop contacts and relationships with Jordanian employers in host communities.

Drawing upon secondary data sources from the Jordanian Government and international organisations, the report aims to provide some indication of the Syrian refugee crisis’s impact until more concrete data is available. The ILO, in conjunction with Jordan’s Department of Statistics (DOS) and the Ministry of Labour, is currently conducting a more comprehensive labour market study covering both Jordanians and Syrian refugees.

Downward wage pressures

According to the report, greater irregular employment coupled with downward pressure on wages were the main impacts of increased Syrian labour market activity. These impacts were attributed to weak enforcement of laws that give employers leeway to hire informally and pay below the national monthly minimum wage of 190 Jordanian Dinars (US$268).

According to DOS data from 2011, daily wages in Jordan for the lowest skilled private sector occupations (excluding agriculture) averaged about 10 Jordanian Dinars (US$14), compared to 15 Jordanian Dinars (US$21) for the economy as a whole.

Given that more than half of the poor in Jordan work and around half of poor household income is derived from wages, downward pressure on wages threatens to push some Jordanian households below the official poverty line (14.4 per cent).

The way forward

The ILO concludes that any approach to address the labour market impact of Syrian refugees must be comprehensive in terms of addressing fundamental labour market issues in Jordan, not just through creating new jobs, but also through:
  • Improving working conditions and wages;
  • addressing informal employment;
  • strengthening migration management;
  • expediting the implementation of Jordan’s National Employment Policy;
  • strengthening the role of the Ministry of Labour, the private sector and trade unions in order to improve labour market governance; and
  • improving national policy coordination and coherence to maximize job creation potential.
Immediate ILO recommendations to address the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on the labour market include:
  • Providing Syrians with formal work permits in specific sectors;
  • creating immediate jobs in host communities;
  • maximizing the job creation potential of the aid economy; as well as
  • encouraging the positive impact of the Syrian presence in Jordan, including investment and increasing demand, which in turn creates jobs.
For more information, please contact: Nisreen Bathish Abou Ragheb, Communications Consultant, ILO Jordan, Email: g8beyexcoll@ilo.org