The 2019 Vulnerability Assessment Framework (VAF) population study examines different dimensions of vulnerability across multiple sectors among a representative sample of registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, stratified by case size and governorate of displacement. Data collection was carried out in October-November 2018 covering 2,248 households, equivalent to 10,400 individuals or 3,712 cases (unit of registration in UNHCR’s ProGres database). Key findings:
- Household characteristics: More than half (54 percent) of households were composed of a single case (the mean number of cases living together as a household was 1.6), 28 percent of households were female-headed, 33 percent of cases were female-headed (female-headed cases are more likely to live in a male-headed household), households mostly comprised of immediate nuclear family members, and the sample was young with relatively few older people (mean age of 24, median age of 21).
- Welfare: 78 percent of respondents fell below the Jordanian poverty line of 68 JOD per capita. There is a small cohort with high expenditure that raises the overall average (mean expenditure is 135 JOD, while median is only 85 JOD). Lower expenditure per capita is associated with: larger cases; female-headed households; and, a higher proportion of females in a case. The proportion of females at the case-level is a better predictor of expenditure patterns than the gender of the household head. There is little variation across governorates, except that per capita expenditure is higher in Amman (where there are a greater proportion of single-cases).
- Coping strategies: The most common negative coping strategies were: (a) buying food on credit; (b) accepting socially degrading, exploitative, high risk or illegal temporary jobs; and (c) reducing essential non-food expenditures. Surveyed refugees used 2.5 of a possible 14 coping strategies in the 30 days prior to the survey. More frequent use of negative coping strategies is associated with: larger cases (possibly due to higher dependency ratios); higher proportion of females; higher incidence of disabilities; and higher ratio of non-autonomous adults. There is only a weak relationship between expenditure per capita and emergency coping strategies such as child begging. There is variation across governorates. There is a correlation between children being withdrawn from school, early marriage and child labor.
- Dependency ratio: 49 percent of surveyed refugees have more than 1.8 dependents per non-dependents in their case. 21 percent of individuals reported a disability. Larger case sizes tend to have higher dependency ratios and live in households with more reported disabilities.
- Basic needs: 40 percent of individuals have debts of more than 100 JOD per capita. 76 percent of respondents have per capita expenditure below the level required to maintain the Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB).
- Education: Education materials, rather than transport, private school fees or other expenses, are the largest component of education costs. Higher education costs are correlated with larger case size, regional location, and overall expenditure per capita, but not distance to school. Higher incidence of out-of-school youth is associated with: higher education costs; frequency of coping strategies; larger case size; and lower proportion of females in the case (distance to school has a very low correlation). Cultural and social norms about the value of education, family obligations and disinterest in culture are the top reasons for non-attendance. Cases with a higher proportion of females are more likely to maintain expenditure on education even with low levels of income (less likely to withdraw children from school), and are less likely to have children engaged in begging.
- Food security: There is no severe food insecurity in the sample: 13 percent of respondents are moderately food insecure, 67 percent are marginally food secure, 19 percent are food secure. About 90 percent have an acceptable Food Consumption Score (FCS). Female-headed households are able to achieve the same FCS as male-headed households but with lower food expenditures.
- Health: There is a high incidence of trauma. 21 percent of individuals report having at least one disability (37 percent of cases and 45 percent of households have a member with a disability). Higher medical expenditures are associated with: more medical issues in the household; lower levels of income; larger cases; and a higher proportion of females in the household. 47 percent indicated that they had noticed an increase in health care costs over the last six months, and also reported high levels of unsustainable debt likely related to recent health care policy changes in Jordan.
- Shelter: 95 percent of respondents live in finished buildings, and 3 percent live in informal settlements. There are important geographical variations in shelter conditions (Mafraq stands has a high proportion of households living in substandard buildings or informal settlements and the highest overall sub-standard shelter scores). A written rental contract is strongly associated with higher quality shelter. As the ratio of females in the household increases, spending on rent tends to decline and the quality of shelter improves.
- WASH: 40 percent of respondents report that they cannot afford to buy some basic hygiene items. Single cases spend nearly twice as much per person on WASH than cases with six or more people. Expenditure on WASH is a determinant of overall expenditure. As the proportion of females in a household increases, expenditure on water and hygiene items declines.
- Livelihoods, income and expenditure: Median income from employment is below the level required to maintain the MEB in all sectors. For some sectors, such as agriculture, services and mining, median earnings fall below the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB). Having a work permit is associated with higher expenditure and income per capita, and more manageable debt. However, less than five percent of cases in the sample had a work permit.
- Debt: 64 percent of respondents are indebted. The most common reasons for incurring debt are: paying rent (36 percent), health care (17 percent) and buying food (11 percent). Higher debt is associated with higher rentals, case size and gender. Cases in female-headed households have a lower median income, but also lower median debt than cases in male-headed households. Smaller cases living in male-headed household are particularly prone to high per capita levels of debt.
- Working children and child labor: Around 5 percent of children aged 5-17 are working children (compared to 1.8 percent among host community). Nearly 95 percent of working children are engaged in child labor and 77 percent are exposed to hazardous labor. Working children are most frequently employed in the services (31 percent) and construction (17 percent) sectors. Child labor affects boys more than girls, however domestic work (often carried out by girls) is not measured.
The authors highlight the importance of the proportion of females in a household for several dimensions of vulnerability; a higher proportion of females is associated with lower expenditure per capita, more frequent use of negative coping strategies, lower incidence of out-of-school youth, higher medical expenditures, lower rentals, better quality shelter, and lower expenditure on water and hygiene items. Some geographic variation exists but it is a weak indicator of vulnerability. Rather, household structure and size is more important. The number of people within a case is negatively associated with expenditure per capita.