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حلولٌ مُرْبِحَةٌ للطرفين: للاجئين السوريين — وللبلدان المُستَضيفة

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Research Brief
A technician explains how to use a grinder to a female trainee.

A technician explains how to use a grinder to a female trainee.

Photo by fotografixx/Getty Images

The Syrian Civil War has displaced about 12 million people, with Syrians both displaced internally inside Syria and having fled across Syria’s borders as refugees. The largest number of refugees are living in three neighboring countries: Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. While host countries have generously received the Syrians, and many Syrians are working, their sheer numbers have strained local labor markets, public services, and social harmony.

Syrian refugees in these countries need more than just ongoing humanitarian assistance. They need the self-sufficiency, dignity, opportunities, and hope that come from jobs. RAND researchers conducted six surveys with Syrians and local firms and 36 focus groups of displaced Syrians and host communities to pinpoint which policies might help create new economic opportunities, both for the refugees and for host-nation workers.

Figure 1. The Syrian Civil War Has Displaced 60 Percent Of Syria's Population Of 23 Million

Figure 1. The Syrian Civil War Has Displaced 60 Percent Of Syria's Population Of 23 Million

Barriers to Women Working

  1. Lower pay than Syrian men.
  2. Lack of safe transportation to the workplace.
  3. Lack of child care or help with other household responsibilities.
  4. Sexual harassment.

Syrian Refugees Have Been Working and Contributing ... but They Need Better Opportunities and Training

Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have all made considerable efforts and sacrifices to accommodate the Syrian refugees. Many Syrians are working and finding ways to get by, and large majorities report that they are treated fairly by employers and coworkers. However, unemployment among refugees is high. Most work in low-skill, low-wage, and informal jobs. Provisions to allow them to work legally are not functioning as planned. Many would-be workers do not live in cities where the jobs are. Failure to enforce minimum wage laws for Syrians puts pressure on host-nation workers.

Figure 2. Top Obstacles to Finding Work Vary By Country

Figure 2. Top Obstacles to Finding Work Vary By Country

What's Going Right

  • Hard Work

    Employers find Syrians to be hardworking and willing to do work that locals do not want. Host-country economies are also benefiting from the Syrians’ labor.

  • Women

    More Syrian women are working in their host countries than in Syria before the war. Men and women alike find this socially acceptable, necessary, and respectable.

  • Goodwill

    Policymakers think that host countries are providing a “public good” for the world by hosting the Syrian refugees and think that donor investments in large infrastructure projects will help host-country economies and Syrians alike.

  • Compassion

    None of the three countries has significant social unrest because of the arrival of large numbers of displaced Syrians. While there is widespread resentment of Syrians in the labor market and in public services, there is also genuine concern for their plight.

  • Entrepeneurs

    Syrians have been active entrepreneurs in Turkey, starting more than 10,000 registered businesses. Still, barriers to growth remain.

  • Employer Demand

    Sizable proportions of the employers surveyed reported having recruited Syrians. There are opportunities for job growth in semiskilled jobs in manufacturing in particular zones or regions.

Survey Synthesis Across Three Countries

Figure 3. Working or Willing to Work

Percentage of Syrians who are working or willing to work

Figure 3. Working or Willing to Work

Figure 4. Trouble with Government

Percentage who agree with the statement, "Many Syrians are afraid they will get into trouble with the government or police if they work."

Figure 4. Trouble with Government

Figure 5. Turkish Language Training

11%

of refugees (Arabic speakers) report receiving Turkish language training on arriving in Turkey.

Figure 6. Permit and Residency Fees

Percentage who agree with the statement, "Syrians cannot pay work permit or residency fees."

Figure 6. Permit and Residency Fees

Figure 7. Discrimination

Percentage of Syrians who regularly feel discriminated against or treated unfairly by an employer.

Figure 7. Discrimination

Figure 8. Respect in the Workplace

Percentage who agree with the statement, "My coworkers treat me with respect in the workplace."

Figure 8. Respect in the Workplace

Recommendations

Turkish Flag

For Turkey

  1. Expand Turkish-language training and capacity.
  2. Link Syrians and Turks to jobs in secondary cities with employment demand, offering training.
  3. Expand access to work permits.
  4. Expedite recognition of Syrian degrees and credentials in Turkey.
  5. Provide transportation for women to jobs.
Jordanian Flag

For Jordan

  1. Offer short vocational training courses on needed skills to both Syrians and Jordanians.
  2. Identify and scale up proven training programs and improve matching of employers and workers.
  3. Improve environment for doing business.
  4. Simplify and streamline the process for issuing work permits.
  5. Explore enforcing minimum wage laws and minimum working condition laws for both Syrians and Jordanians.
Flag of Lebanon

For Lebanon

  1. Offer short vocational training courses on needed skills to both Syrians and Lebanese.
  2. Decrease restrictions on sectors where Syrians can work.
  3. Facilitate obtaining work permits.
  4. Increase governance capacity, including municipal, to facilitate foreign investment.
  5. Improve matching of employees and employers.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research brief series. RAND research briefs present policy-oriented summaries of individual published, peer-reviewed documents or of a body of published work.

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