As of December 2018, there were 3.7 million Syrian refugees registered in Turkey, a fifth of whom wish to remain in Turkey even after the conflict in Syria ends. This paper examines the factors associated with the economic integration of Syrian refugees in Turkey. The analysis is based on the 2017 Syrian Barometer survey of 1,235 Syrian refugees in ten major refugee-hosting regions. Descriptive statistics reveal that 58.3 percent of refugees in the sample (aged above 11) are in the labor force including 38.6 percent who are employed and 19.7 percent who are unemployed. The employment rate is higher for self-settled refugees (43.0 percent) compared to refugees in camps (24.5 percent). Among employed refugees, only 40.7 percent work in regular paid jobs while 49.3 percent work as seasonal or irregular (daily) jobs without regular wage income.
The empirical analysis reveals:
- On average, refugees who are younger, male, have post-secondary school qualifications, had higher incomes in Syria, and have better Turkish language proficiency, are more likely to be employed. Older Syrians are less likely to find a job (probability of unemployment increases while probability of employment decreases) and are more likely to leave the labor market when they live outside of camps. Compared to male refugees, female refugees have a 37 percent higher probability of being inactive in the labor market (lower probability of being employed and unemployed). Syrians with post-secondary school qualifications have 9 percent lower probability of being unemployed compared to those without any post-secondary qualifications, and have a 12 percent higher chance of being employed and 17 percent lower chance of being inactive in the labor market. A higher income level in Syria decreases the probability of being unemployed and increases the chance of being employed. Higher Turkish language proficiency reduces the risk of being unemployed and increases the likelihood of finding employment.
- Self-settlement is found to decrease the probability of being unemployed and increase the probability of being out of the labor market, compared to refugees living in temporary protection camps. Living outside camps increases the probability of being inactive in the labor market while decreases the probability of being unemployed by 5.5 percent.
- Marriage seems to decrease the probability of being unemployed compared to single people. This could be due to greater financial responsibilities and consequently increased pressure to find a job.
- Duration of displacement seems to play little role in economic integration. Months since migration has only a small association with a decrease in unemployment and no statistically significant effect on employment.
- Women at all ages are found to have a higher probability of being inactive compared to men in the same age groups. For example, at age 30, women have 50 percentage point higher probability of being inactive.
- Refugees who have higher levels of education, are female, have better Turkish language proficiency, belong to later cohorts (except 2016) and live in Bursa, Gaziantep and Izmir have a higher probability of working in a regular job once they are employed. Having an above high school diploma increases the chance of being employed in a regular job by 37.8 percent and decreases the probability of working in a casual job by almost 40 percent compared to Syrians without a diploma. Women have a 12.4 percent higher likelihood of working in a regular job. Turkish proficiency does not contribute to the probability of self-employment but increases the chance of having a regular job while decreases the probability of being in a casual work. These results do not change when non-border provinces are excluded from the sample.
- Refugees who are older, had higher incomes in Syria and who live outside the camps are more likely to be self-employed. Syrians who are older are less likely to work in a casual job and are more likely to be self-employed. Previous income in Syria is positively correlated with the probability of being self-employed and decreases the probability of working in a casual work. Living outside the camps increases the probability of being self-employed by almost 17 percent and decreases the chance of working in a casual work by 11 percent.
In their conclusion, the authors highlight the significant role of education and Turkish language proficiency in the employment prospects of refugees and recommend that the government focuses urgently on policies that will bring improvements in these areas.