Refugees and decent work: Lessons learned from recent refugee jobs compacts

EMPLOYMENT Working Paper No. 256

This paper addresses refugee livelihoods – in particular, waged work for refugees – from a labour standards perspective. This is in contrast to the usual approach to refugee livelihoods, in which decent work has not been a focus. The paper presents case studies of the work aspects of the Jordanian and Ethiopian compacts. The lessons learned from these contexts have much to teach us about how to integrate refugees into labour markets in host countries in ways that do not expose refugees to exploitation, or indirectly undermine existing conditions for those already doing the work. Based on these cases, the paper argues that if we are to take refugee self-reliance seriously, we will need to create decent work opportunities – not just any chance to earn money – for refugees and for the others who labour alongside them, including local workers, migrant workers, and internally displaced people. In other words, the right for refugees to work must be accompanied by rights at work.