June 29, 2017
A new ILO study, prepared in close collaboration with UNHCR, found that work permits give the majority of Syrian refugee workers in Jordan a sense of stability and security, yet more efforts were needed to improve their overall working conditions.
The commitment made last year at the London Conference by the Government of Jordan to reduce barriers to legal employment has resulted in thousands of Syrian refugees obtaining work permits, providing them with better and regularised job opportunities and higher wages. This breakthrough development has also given Syrian refugees an important sense of safety and security, the study found.
“From what refugees tell us, they feel definitely that a work permit in Jordan has provided them with much more protection, they feel more comfortable,” said Laura Buffoni, Senior Livelihoods Officer at UNHCR. “Not only is work dignity, it is additional resources for the family.”
The study also found that Syrians with work permits earn more than those who are working without work permits. Around 20 per cent of those surveyed said that work permits protected their labour rights, while others believed that work permits gave them job stability and created more job opportunities. A small minority believed that work permits have no benefits at all.
“Through this research, we want to understand how, a year after the Jordan Compact, the situation of Syrian workers has changed, whether for those who obtained work permits or those who are still facing problems in obtaining them. We want to understand if work permits have affected the working conditions of Syrians,” said Maha Kattaa, Coordinator for the ILO Syrian Refugee Response in Jordan. “A work permit does not automatically mean decent work conditions. It is, however, a step towards formalizing workers and giving them access to better working conditions.”
The study shows that working conditions, including occupational safety and health measures, working hours and social security, still need improvement. The majority of Syrian respondents with work permits are not covered by social security. Around 64 percent of Syrian workers with and without work permits reported inadequate Occupational Safety and Health measures.
The study – based on 450 questionnaires, as well as field consultations and focus group discussions with refugee community leaders, Syrian workers and their employers – focuses on the agricultural, construction and service sectors.
The government of Jordan, through its Compact, which was presented at the London Syria Conference in 2016, agreed to allow Syrians into selected occupations of the labour market, in return for improved Jordanian access to the European market, soft loans, and increased foreign investment in the country.
As a result, Jordan has simplified work permit procedures and agreed to issue permits to Syrian refugees free of charge for a set time period. According to government figures, between December 2015 and December 2016 the number of Syrians with work permits grew from 4,000 to around 40,000.
The number of Syrian refugees stands at approximately 1.3 million according to the Government of Jordan, including 657,000 registered with UNHCR, with a vast majority living in urban areas.