Access to work in Jordan and Lebanon for Syrian refugees, migrant workers and host populations

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Article
9 January 2017

Lebanon: Despite international donors’ projects, Syrian refugees suffer from unemployment

Author: Executive Magazine (Lebanon)

Unemployed and underemployed: A lack of jobs in Lebanon means many Syrian refugees can’t find work, 4 January 2017

[A] series of new development projects and policy reforms could provide more employment opportunities for both displaced Syrians and Lebanese citizens. This was a key theme of an international donor conference held in London in February 2016 … The donor conference secured pledges totaling $12 billion in grants and loans aimed mainly at Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey ... One project to be financed [is] the rehabilitation of 500 km of Lebanon’s deteriorating roadways. [T]he Road and Employment Project is expected to create 1.5 million labor days of work, but is not expected to begin issuing contracts before the start of 2018. Supply chain industries and up to 25 contractors are also set to benefit from the project, which is to be conducted in partnership with the World Bank. Two-thirds of those refugees considered as employed worked less than 15 days, and 92 percent earn less than the survival minimum expenditure basket of $435 per month … [Since October 2014,] Syrians residing in Lebanon were restricted to working in three sectors … construction, agriculture and cleaning services – and the latter was expanded to ‘environment’ in 2015 … While most economists acknowledge that the refugee crisis has created competition among low-skilled positions – potentially lowering wages in some sectors – displaced Syrians are not thought to have substantially affected Lebanese unemployment.

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Article
9 January 2017

Lebanon: Lebanese workers protest against unfair competition by foreign workers

Author: The Daily Star (Lebanon)

East Lebanon workers protest 'unfair' foreign competition, 6 January 2017

Around 20 workers in an east Lebanon town Friday protested against the influx of foreign workers who they say have stripped them of their livelihoods. Blue collar workers demonstrated in Ras al-Ain in the city of Baalbeck to demand the government put an end to "unfair competition," the National News Agency reported. "Lebanese workers can no longer find jobs or provide for their families due to the foreign competition, as foreigners accept [lower wages]," local official, Mukhtar Mohammad Awada said. He added that foreign have been receiving aid from donor countries and the United Nation, which is not being used to stimulate the Lebanese economy through spending, and instead are "competing with Lebanese workers."… Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure have been heavily impacted by the Syrian conflict and resulting surge of refugees. There are currently 1.1 million Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon with the U.N. refugee agency, although the Lebanese government estimates the figure to be around 1.5 million. Former Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi had continuously lashed out at local and international companies in Lebanon for laying off around 10,000 Lebanese in favor of "foreigners."… In August, the Labor Ministry announced that it would take stricter measures against forced layoffs to replace Lebanese with foreigners.

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Article
6 January 2017

Addressing the Syrian refugee crisis: Recommendations for the next administration

Author: Jessica Brandt and Robert L. McKenzie, Brookings Institution

Original publication date: 16 Dec 2016

Five years into Syria’s civil war, the international community has come to recognize that refugees will not be returning home any time soon. The average length of major protracted refugee situations is 26 years.[10] The resources and infrastructure of Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey have been strained by the crisis, which was one of the primary reasons the European crisis of 2015 erupted. Therefore, for political reasons as well as humanitarian ones, advancing the well-being of the displaced where they are is imperative. The key to doing so is expanding access to education and employment...

...Opening labor markets to refugees is a politically sensitive matter. The United States, together with the international community, has a role to play in encouraging countries to take steps in that direction and supporting them when they do...

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Article
2 January 2017

Jordan: Challenges with providing legal jobs for Syrian refugees

Author: Bethan Staton, Deutsche Welle (Germany)

Syrian refugees in Jordan find little benefit in working legally, 30 December 2017

Jordan vowed to create 200,000 jobs for Syrians at an international donors conference in London in February and a raft of measures were passed to make that happen: Work permits were made available for free, some $700 million was pledged in international grants, and EU rule-of-origin laws were loosened for manufacturers employing at least 15 percent Syrian labor … But the roll-out of work permits hasn't met expectations. Around 35,000 of a projected 50,000 permits were issued this year … The Jordanian government, assumed that Syrians would snap up permits if they were easily available, but that wasn't the case… [The case of Ashraf, a Syrian refugee worker], illustrates the complexity of the puzzle. He can't apply for a work permit because sales - like other professions, including teaching and driving - is reserved only for Jordanian citizens. Compared to the low-paid work that's most accessible for refugees the job is a good fit for Ashraf, but it's unlikely to become legal for Syrians: With unemployment already high, opening restricted professions to non-Jordanians is a political minefield.

That's not the only barrier … Because employers may have more obligations toward an employee with a work permit, some may be reluctant to get them for their workers … Another source of reluctance could lie in attitudes to work. "There's a thing with the employers here, especially with migrant workers," Linda Kalash, the founder of Tamkeen, a migrant worker NGO, said. "They consider the workers as property" … Syrian workers [however, are] more likely to value control over their labor and pay. And no permit, Kalash said, means they are free to "leave at any time."  

The work for which permits are available isn't necessarily appealing to all Syrians either. This year the Better Work program - a partnership between the ILO and the International Finance Corporation - has worked to promote the garment sector as a viable source of employment for Syrian refugees, but the program so far has had limited success … "Syrians don't come to work in this sector because it's far from their houses," Kalash explained, adding that the sector's average pay of 190 dinar (257 euros/$268) a month is simply not enough to survive in Jordan.

 

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Article
23 December 2016

U.S. Corporate Leadership Amidst the Refugee Crisis: A View from Jordan

Author: Ziad Haider, Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs at U.S. Department of State

21 Dec 2016

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of leading a ten-member U.S. business delegation to Jordan representing a broad array of sectors, including infrastructure, consumer goods, financial services, and informational technology..

One specific avenue we explored for our firms to “do well and good” in Jordan was a new Jordan-European Union (EU) agreement under which firms operating in Jordan’s 18 Special Economic Zones and employing 15 percent Syrian refugee labor will enjoy preferential access to the EU market. To explore how our firms might leverage this deal, the delegation met with the CEO of the King Hussein Industrial Zone in Mafraq -- one of the zones encompassed by the EU deal and near the Za’atari refugee camp. The delegation toured the Zone and a factory of Petra Engineering that makes air conditioning units with imported U.S. steel; whose clients span NASA to Facebook; and is a potential beneficiary from the EU deal and partner for U.S. firms...

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Article
22 December 2016

#RefugeesWelcome: U.S. Companies Setting the Standard for Inclusive Hiring

Author: Ziad Haider, Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State

When the winners of the Secretary of State’s Awards for Corporate Excellence (ACE) were announced earlier this month, I was delighted to see that McDonald’s Deutschland was one of the winners of the first ever ACE award for inclusive hiring practices for hiring refugees in Germany.  This is the type of corporate leadership that makes many of our companies our best ambassadors overseas.

Today, we are witnessing the largest displacement of people since World War II.  Twenty million refugees are scattered across the globe; the Syrian conflict alone has uprooted 4.5 million people.  A crisis of this scale simply cannot be solved by one or many governments alone.  An “all hands on deck” approach is needed. The private sector has a crucial role to play -- driven not just by beneficence but by dividends. That is because many refugees I have met over the course of my work have hard skills and can have a significant positive impact once they are economically integrated in their host economies...

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Article
21 December 2016

Syrians in the Labour Market, Reality, Opportunities and Challenges

Author: Tamkeen Fields for Aid

original date: 23 Nov 2016

Tamkeen Center – participants recommended in a specialized seminar, stakeholders to work on creating a database; containing all Syrian refugees who are seeking to work, their experience, and sectors they are willing to work in, and another database which contains information about employers in Jordan and whereabouts.

This was during a roundtable conducted by Tamkeen Fields for Aid on “Syrians in the labour market; the reality, opportunities and challenges“. Participants further  recommended to find policies that facilitate registration of small traders projects and industrialists of  Syrians which ensure getting their rights, as well as developing a mechanism for the work of Syrians in the Kingdom without being restricted to specific employers, under the concept of “self- employment”, which is applied in several countries, in addition to raising the awareness of workers in regard to their legal rights and mechanism of reporting violations they are exposed to.

...One of the most important effects in the Syrian increasing activity in labour market is due to the growth of irregular employment, in addition to the pushing towards the reduction of wages, due to the weak enforcement of laws, which paves the way for employers to recruit irregular workers, and paying them lower than the minimum wage of 190 dinars per month, or the equivalent of $268...

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Report
5 December 2016

Jordan: Report reveals challenges refugees living outside camps encounter obtaining official documents

Author: International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School (IHRC); Norwegian Refugee Council Jordan (NRC)

Securing Status: Syrian refugees and the documentation of legal status, identity, and family relationships in Jordan, November 2016

Without access to formal channels of income and assistance, refugees without documentation may work illegally to support their families. To work legally in Jordan, refugees must have a work permit; in early 2016 the Government of Jordan committed to providing up to 200,000 work opportunities to Syrians over a three-year period and introduced measures to make it easier for Syrians to obtain work permits. However, only refugees with a new [Ministry of Interior] card (or a passport showing regular entry) are eligible to receive work permits...

A grandfather described his grandsons’ work […] As a result of working without a permit, the second grandson was detained by police and sent to Azraq. The family relied on the grandson to “help to wash and take care of [the disabled father],” so he left Azraq without authorisation. The grandfather said that while this grandson was “afraid to go out,” he sometimes still left the house to find work “for JOD 4 or 5 per job.” While many Syrian refugees work without formal work permits, the risks of illegal work are compounded for refugees who lack documentation; their invisibility to authorities puts them at increased risk of exploitation by employers who take advantage of undocumented refugees’ fears that they will come to the attention of authorities.

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Article
21 November 2016

Lebanon: Work restrictions on Syrian refugees increase unemployment and hardship

Author: Alex Dziadosz, Financial Times

Syrian exiles in Lebanon seek a refuge in work, 22 November 2016

Syrian exiles in Lebanese camps are offered vocational training — but no jobs… Abu Abed, head of one of the [Bekaa Valley] camps, says just over half the men of working age in his camp have found work, and then only irregularly and for low wages. “They get some seasonal work — agriculture, construction. But stable, regular work? The kind of thing you need to make a life? There’s nothing like that.”… of the 4.4m Syrians who have fled into neighbouring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, many hundreds of thousands have struggled to secure even basic incomes…

In Lebanon, nearly two dozen organisations offer vocational training programmes to Syrian refugees, from large international NGOs to community-based local groups…The reality, however, is that such programmes, while often transformative for those who receive them, are far too small and scattered... Recent ILO analysis puts unemployment rates among Syrian refugees at over 60 per cent in Jordan and 36 per cent in Lebanon … the Lebanese government has also put heavy employment restrictions on Syrians. Technically, Syrians are only allowed to work in three sectors — agriculture, construction and cleaning.

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Item
7 November 2016

Lebanon: Stronger commitment to rights and social justice needed in the Tripoli Special Economic Zone

Author: Ziad Abdel Samad, Arab NGO Network for Development, LinkedIn

Special Economic Zones in Tripoli; Fears and Hopes, 3 November 2016

The law on the establishment of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Tripoli issued on September 5, 2008 identified the role and objectives of the Tripoli SEZ General Authority … [The SEZ] is subject neither to the provisions regulating the work of public institutions nor to oversight from Central Inspection or the Civil Service Board and is only subject to the Audit Court’s supervision… [The SEZ Law leaves some labour rights questions unanswered.] For example, will employers sign contracts with wage-earners and workers that clarify their rights and duties as stipulated by the Lebanese Labour Law? This includes the minimum wage, overtime allowances, registration in all of the branches of social security, the right to organize and establish trade unions, and in particular family allowances and transportation which are rights acquired by workers thanks to their decades-old demand movements.

[Another issue] raised in this context related to transparency and accountability standards and the citizens’ right to obtain information related inter alia to tenders and contracts and several other activities. To what extent will the SEZ provide transparency and accountability mechanisms to see to the investors and companies’ compliance with human rights standards?

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