A Syrian barber cuts a client's hair at Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan, in November 2021 | Photo: EPA/Mohammad Ali
A Syrian barber cuts a client's hair at Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan, in November 2021 | Photo: EPA/Mohammad Ali

Syrians in Jordan received 62,000 work permits in 2021 – a record high number. The country hosts more than 700,000 refugees, most of whom come from Syria.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has praised the government of Jordan for issuing a "record number of work permits to Syrian refugees," as communicated in a statement published on Tuesday (January 25).

The organization said that 62,000 Syrians had been given permits in 2021 -- the highest annual number since work permits for Syrian refugees were introduced. Syrian refugees have generally been allowed to work in several sectors of the Jordanian economy since 2016, according to the UNHCR, but only after being issued such permits.

Jordan hosts 760,000 registered refugees

Half of the work permits that Jordan had issued to Syrians in 2021 were of a flexible nature, i.e. work permits that allow them to move between similar jobs in the same sector or to change employers and governatorates.

"Refugees can play a significant role in the Jordanian economy, and so they should," the UNHCR representative in Jordan, Dominik Bartsch, said. "Allowing refugees to work also reduces the need for humanitarian aid, like cash grants, which could be channeled to support the most vulnerable among them."

Some 760,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been registered by the UNHCR in Jordan; roughly 670,000 of them come from Syria, making Jordan the country with the second highest number of Syrian refugees per capita worldwide after Lebanon.

Most refugees lack access to formal labor market

A recent UNHCR report found that many refugees worldwide still don't have access to decent jobs: Only 38% of refugees currently live in countries with unrestricted access to formal employment, including wage-earning jobs or self-employment, the organization said.

"Even in countries with laws allowing refugees to work, getting a job is often very difficult, especially with high unemployment rates in host countries," Ayman Gharaibeh, UNHCR's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said.

"The devastating impact of COVID-19 on host economies is another obstacle for refugees trying to access the labor market," Gharaibeh added, saying that "given a chance ... refugees can bring innovation, reliability, regional networks and technical know-how to the workplace and make significant contributions locally."


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