Over 725,000 people affected by loss of livelihoods after Syria earthquakes

A new ILO assessment evaluates the effect of the natural disaster on workers and their families and on businesses in Syria’s affected areas.

بيان صحفي | ٢٨ مارس, ٢٠٢٣
BEIRUT (ILO News) - A new ILO assessment estimates that some 170,000 workers in Syria have lost their jobs due to the earthquakes that struck region last month, leaving around 154,000 households and more than 725,000 individuals directly affected.

At least USD $5.68 million are estimated to be lost every month as a result of this temporary loss of jobs, which the note terms as “disemployment.” Around 35,000 micro and small enterprises are also thought to be impacted.

The estimates were presented in an ILO technical note gauging the extent of the loss of employment caused by the disaster’s destruction of land, structures, capital equipment and tools normally used by people in the course of their working day.

“The earthquakes have had a devastating impact on livelihoods and the local economy in Syria, compounding the already dire economic and labour market situation caused by 12 years of war and conflict,” said ILO Senior Employment Policy Specialist for the Arab States Tariq Haq, who led the team that prepared the technical note.

“These losses have an impact not only on the lives of the unemployed workers themselves, but also on the lives of those who depend on them. The new ILO assessment aims to understand the current situation and identify areas of need that require immediate action in order to support quick and inclusive recovery in line with the principles of decent work and social justice,” Haq added.

Approximately 139,000 men and 31,000 women are estimated to have become unemployed as a result of the earthquakes in Syria, equivalent to 6.6 per cent of pre-earthquake male employment and 5 per cent of female employment.

Five of Syria’s districts – or governorates – have been particularly impacted: Aleppo, Idleb, Hama, Lattakia and Tartous. These governorates are home to an estimated 43.4 per cent of the total population in Syria; some 7.1 million individuals are of working age (15+), of whom around 2.7 million were in employment. Women represented 22.8 per cent of total employment in the five affected governorates.

With the destruction of their dwellings and places of work, individuals are likely to resort to coping mechanisms to sustain their livelihoods and restore their incomes until the situation improves, the technical note states.

Many of those who have been lost their livelihoods will move to other forms of informal, lower-paid activities to sustain themselves and their families. Informality and working poverty are likely to increase until more sustainable solutions are implemented.

Labour supply is expected to increase as households strive to survive, with many previously inactive men, women and children becoming compelled to join the labour force and seek work to mitigate the income loss of their households. With the destruction of school buildings and disruption of education, the already high levels of child labour are expected to increase significantly.

“Concerted efforts are required to prevent this and facilitate the return of children to education as soon as possible,” the note asserts.

With reconstruction work underway, it is also likely that more individuals will become involved in emergency infrastructure and construction projects, with heightened concerns about the occupational safety and health of those workers.

“The aftermath of the earthquakes can have severe and long-lasting effects on the labour market. If not properly addressed, such events can force businesses to permanently close and keep disemployed workers without jobs for a prolonged period of time, severely disrupting economic activity,” the technical note warns.

In setting out a number of emergency and medium- to longer-term recommendations to support recovery in Syria following the earthquakes, “the note highlights emergency employment programmes as key to providing income to displaced workers and helping them support themselves and their families,” said Tomoki Watanabe, ILO Country Coordinator in Syria. “Such programmes include the ILO’s Employment Intensive Infrastructure Programmes, and we are initiating such a programme in Aleppo, to embed decent work principles in recovery efforts while also ensuring the rehabilitation of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.”

The technical note concludes: “[R]e-iterating the principles of decent work, promoting social dialogue, coordinating efforts among the different stakeholders that have a role to play in the labour market and re-emphasizing the role of the private sector as a main generator of decent and productive jobs, are critical for building resilience and speeding up recovery efforts.”

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