Refugees and Decent Work: Lessons Learned from Recent Refugee Jobs Compacts
Employment Policy Department, INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE – GENEVA, EMPLOYMENT Working Paper No. 256, 2019.
48 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2020 Last revised: 21 Feb 2020
Date Written: December 17, 2019
This paper analyzes the implementation to date of the 2016 Jordan Compact and Ethiopia Jobs Compact, European Union-funded efforts to increase refugees' access to work in those host countries. Both plans focused initially on garment export manufacturing as the principal engine for refugee employment. Yet almost no refugees work in garment jobs in Jordan today, more than three years later; instead Syrians largely labor in the informal agriculture and construction sectors. The Ethiopia program has now been redesigned; there, too, export factories are no longer seen as central to refugee employment. The paper sets out the practical obstacles that the idea encountered on the ground, including the reluctance of refugees in both countries to accept jobs at the pay and under the conditions on offer at the bottom of global garment supply chains. Reflecting on these case studies, the paper calls for future refugee employment efforts to emphasize not just the right to work but, equally, rights at work. It concludes with recommendations for how to design refugee jobs initiatives with the goal of advancing labor rights for refugees and other workers in the host country, in both formal and informal settings.
Keywords: refugees, supply chain, garment, Jordan Compact, workers rights, decent work
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