"Refugees’ Right to Work and Access to Labor Markets – An Assessment"

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2 September 2016

Refugees’ Right to Work and Access to Labor Markets – An Assessment Part I: Synthesis

Author: Roger Zetter and Héloïse Ruaudel, Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development

For refugees, the right to work is vital for reducing vulnerability, enhancing resilience, and securing dignity. Harnessing refugees’ skills can also benefit local economic activity and national development. But there are many obstacles. Based on a sample of 20 countries hosting 70 percent of the world’s refugees, this study investigates the role and impact of legal and normative provisions providing and protecting refugees’ right to work within the 1951 Refugee Convention as well as from the perspective of nonsignatory states. Three metrics analyze the principle determinants of the right to work and labor market access: refugee and employment law, policies and practices that facilitate or constrain the right to work, and mediating socioeconomic conditions.

Overall the study finds remarkable diversity in legal provisions and constraints on refugees’ right to work. A restrictive approach to the right to work prevails, and most states are reluctant to ease these restrictions. The majority of refugees work in the informal sector, but under much less satisfactory and more exploitative conditions compared with nationals. Informal labor markets are also constrained in countries with fragile economies which often host large numbers of refugees. Based on its findings, the study concludes that more national and international coordination is required, multiple actors should share in the responsibility to deliver decent work, labor market policies as well as training and education should be harnessed to support sustainable livelihoods, and refugee social capital should be more effectively engaged.

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1 September 2016

Refugees’ Right to Work and Access to Labor Markets – An Assessment - Part II: Country Cases

September 2016

Case studies on:

The Islamic Republic of Iran
South Africa
United Kingdom
United States
República Bolivariana de Venezuela..

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