Jobs for the forcibly displaced – evidence and data.


Dear Colleagues,

This month’s Literature Review Update focuses on jobs and livelihoods for those forcibly displaced. Some 15 recent articles are summarized on the evidence for various innovations and experiences in different settings, both in camps, as in Dollo Ado in Ethiopia, Kakuma in Kenya, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, and at country level, with examples from Colombia, Jordan, Turkey and Sierra Leone.

The evidence that emerges from the papers included in the literature review and from other recent projects shows how complex the process of labor market integration still is for the large majority of displaced persons. Employment – whether formal or informal – is low. In Uganda, 54 percent of refugees report aid as their main source of income and in Kampala, 74 percent depend on remittances as their main source of income. In Ethiopia, aid is the major source of livelihood for over 80 percent of refugees after displacement, compared to less than 10 percent before their displacement, and only 22 percent of working-age refugees are employed. Even in Dollo Ado in Ethiopia, where the international community has actively sought to create jobs programs, only 21 percent of refugees and 29 percent of the host community members have an income-generating activity, and the largest source of employment for both communities is with humanitarian organizations. In Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, large employment and wage gaps exist between refugees and hosts, and are even larger for refugee women.

Evidence on internally displaced people (IDP) also seems to indicate negative impacts of displacement on labor market outcomes. In Colombia, IDPs face a significant decrease in wages following their move. In Georgia, IDPs are less likely to be in the labor force and more likely to be unemployed or receive lower wages many years after their displacement, compared to local residents.

Refugees and IDPs face several specific obstacles to integrate into the labor market compared to local workers (Schuettler and Caron, forthcoming). They often face the loss of physical assets and human capital. Typically, forcibly displaced people have little time to prepare for their move, learn skills needed at destination, and take certificates with them. Further, they usually do not choose their first destination based on available labor market opportunities, and they often end up in the more disadvantaged parts of a country. Consequently, they face a lack of demand in the labor market at destination. Also, they have often suffered negative impacts on their physical and mental health, which in turn affect their ability to integrate in the labor market and entrepreneurial sector of the host communities.

Importantly, legal barriers impact job opportunities. This is especially true for refugees. Some countries completely ban refugees from working, be it as an employee or entrepreneur. Moreover, as the authors of the Doing Business in Dadaab study point out, there are broader limiting factors for refugee self-reliance and entrepreneurship such as movement restrictions, often negative security situations discouraging private and national actors from investing, and restrictions on land access that limit agricultural activities.

The international community is paying increased attention to job creation and private sector development for refugees and IDPs. On the legal side, the Forced Displacement and Asylum Policy in the Developing World project by Blair, Grossman and Weinstein looks at the de jure asylum and refugee policies in more than 90 developing countries. Among the indicators employed for categorizing these policies, one set of variables looks specifically at labor market aspects, such as the ability to work and own property.

Specifically on the investment and business climate, the Refugee Investment Network is developing a Refugee Opportunity Index which seeks to measure the extent to which a country’s policy environment enables access to economic opportunity for refugees within their host communities. The Network is partnering with The Economist Intelligence Unit to develop the index. As part of that work, they have conducted a thorough literature review, which we partly draw on for this Update.

Third, the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative (RSRI) – a multi-stakeholder collaboration to identify the most conducive environments, effective models, and accurate measurements to aid global expansion of self-reliance opportunities – has developed a Self-Reliance Index (SRI). SRI tracks refugee households’ ability to meet their “essential needs in a sustainable manner and with dignity”, using indicators such as employment, transportation/mobility, safety documentation/residency status, community involvement, and other socio-economic factors.

Fourth, the World Bank has conducted a comprehensive literature review on Jobs Interventions for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons which will be published as a Working Paper later this month (Schuettler and Caron). It brings together two strands of research to inform the design of successful job interventions for those forcibly displaced: (1) evidence on how forced displacement impacts the economic trajectories of those forcibly displaced; and (2) existing knowledge on jobs interventions for refugees and IDPs. The team is also preparing a Jobs Solutions Note with the aim to identify evidence-based solutions for practitioners and policymakers to design and implement policies and programs that improve jobs outcomes for those forcibly displaced. Further, in 2018 the World Bank published the Refugees’ Right to Work and Access to Labor Markets assessment, which contained some 20 country case studies.

Finally, as part of the latest replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA 19), the World Bank has made a commitment to conduct a systematic review of refugee policy and institutional environments in those countries eligible for the sub-window for Host Communities and Refugees. The World Bank is currently developing a methodology to articulate the key policy areas to be included in the review and the corresponding indicators to monitor. One of the policy areas is the right to work.

In short, there are a lot of relevant on-going initiatives and a growing body of research that will offer better evidence and data on what works to create improved livelihoods for those forcibly displaced, also for the medium and long-term when necessary. We are looking forward to sharing more of the outcomes of these various strands of work in the near future.

Finally, an announcement: we have just launched a call for papers for the JDC’s Second Research Conference on Forced Displacement. The conference will have a particular, albeit not exclusive, focus on research on internally displaced persons. We hope you consider submitting your research!

As always, please do not hesitate to share your feedback on the Literature Review and the Newsletter, either to Zara on [email protected] or myself on [email protected].

Yours sincerely,

Björn Gillsäter
Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement