Published on Arab Voices

A new approach to the refugee crisis: A win-win case for Jordanians and Syrian refugees

ImageLast week, in New York, the United Nations summit on refugees and migrants expressed the international community’s strong commitment to tackling issues faced by refugees and their host countries. The shift aims to ensure that “more children can attend school and more workers can securely seek jobs abroad.”
Earlier this year, in London, at the conference “supporting Syria and the region”, the Jordan Compact was developed to support Syrian refugees and their host communities.  
We at the World Bank Group are supporting this through a $300 million operation, the first of its kind to improve economic opportunities both for Jordanians and for Syrian refugees. The financing comes from the International Development Association (IDA) and from the newly created Global Concessional Financing Facility. The Facility provides middle-income countries hosting refugees with concessional financing.
The program we are working on will support labor market reforms – in addition to investment climate reforms and investment promotion activities aiming at attracting investments and fostering job creation for Syrian refugees and Jordanians. The labor market reforms will have several benefits:
  • Syrian refugees will be able to seek work opportunities and generate revenue for their families, becoming self-reliant rather than solely dependent on humanitarian aid. Having a job can also contribute to restoring a sense of dignity and pride as economic agents in the Jordanian society.
  • Working will allow Syrian refugees to maintain and improve their skills through on-the-job training, thereby avoiding a lost generation of youth.  The skills they will acquire can allow them to rebuild their country when peace and the conditions for their return are in place. 
  • Meanwhile, the Jordanian economy will reap the benefits of having a pool of workers to bring the sort of skills and experience that complement those of Jordanian workers, especially in agriculture and manufacturing.
  • Moreover, the economy will benefit as Syrian workers spend their income within Jordan, leading to indirect job creation and additional economic growth, thanks to an economic multiplier effect.
More than 25,000 work permits have been issued to Syrian refugees in Jordan and several policy measures have been taken to ease the allocation of work permits. Syrian refugees are coming forward to formalize the existing jobs they are holding informally, as well as to take advantage of new job opportunities for which they qualify.
In coming years, many more jobs for Syrians and Jordanians should be created in those manufacturing sectors that benefit from the European Union (EU) trade preference agreement, which was granted in July 2016 to Jordan and is known as a “relaxation of the rules of origin.” Under this preference, Jordanian producers enjoy duty free access to the EU market for a large set of products, providing that at least 15% of the labor involved in making them is Syrian in the first two years and 25% in years to follow.
To make the most of the EU trade preference, Jordan will need to build on its reputation as a socially and environmentally responsible producer. To improve working conditions, the Government of Jordan will begin to publicly disclose exporters’ compliance levels with international labor and safety standards and Jordanian labor law.
The New York Declaration illustrates the international community’s commitment to strengthen the range of contributions that refugees can make to the economic and social development of the countries in which they find refuge. It also provides the host countries rescuing and receiving large numbers of refugees, with support to build resilience.
The World Bank’s “Economic Opportunities for Jordanians and Syrian Refugees Project” aims to play an important role in both aspects. 


Meriem Ait Ali Slimane

Senior Economist, World Bank

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