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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Supporting Syrian refugees’ access to the formal labour market in Jordan through flexible work permits, recognition of prior learning and employment services

International Labour Organization (
United Nations / Multilateral body

    The entry of Syrians into the Jordanian labour market has exacerbated an already challenging labour market, putting pressure on the quality of jobs, working conditions, while increasing informality. In 2016, Jordan began to facilitate Syrian refugees’ access to the formal labour market, through the Jordan Compact, offering opportunities for growth and employment. This allowed the ILO and partners to upscale interventions that address the decent work needs of Jordanians alongside those of refugees, by focusing on evidence-based policy recommendations and pilot interventions; formalization through skills recognition, and establishing employment service centres to facilitate job-matching.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    The ILO with the Ministry of Labour has developed an innovative approach, where agricultural work permits are delivered directly through cooperatives in Jordan, easing the process and giving workers and employers an incentive to apply for permits. In 2020, the ILO in collaboration with MOL established Agriculture Guidance and Employment Units where cooperatives can provide career guidance and job placement services to Jordanians and Syrian refugees working in the agriculture sector. A second model was implemented through collaboration with the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions (GFJTU) to ease the process of issuing work permits to Syrian refugees in the construction sector. An ILO-supported Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Labour and the GFJTU, allows for work permits to be issued through GFJTU, and stipulates that workers enroll in contributory social security schemes. In Jordan, a certificate of skills accreditation was a pre-requisite for Syrians to obtain work permits in the construction sector. The ILO, together with partners developed and validated practical and theoretical trainings for ten occupations to help refugees and Jordanians build and certify their skills. Workers’ skills are assessed through on-the-job observation and written tests. This programme helped Syrian workers access the accreditation necessary for them to obtain formal work, while enhancing their longer-term employability through skills certification. Since 2017, 13 Employment Service Centres have been set up across Jordan. These centres provide employment services for Jordanians and Syrian refugees, such as employment and training advice, job-matching services and career counselling. Two of these centres are in the Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps, and run in collaboration with UNHCR.


    - 215,668 work permits have been issued by Jordan to Syrian refugees since 2016; 20,742 of which were directly supported by the ILO (14% to women) - More than 70% of the work permits issued through cooperatives and GFJTU - Through a network of 19 ILO employment service centres and guidance units, including six in agriculture, more than 22,500 Syrian refugees and Jordanian nationals have found jobs since 2017. - Around 20,000 Syrian refugees and Jordanians have upgraded their skills through skills development interventions, including 10,000 Recognition of Prior Learning, - Conducting intensive evidence-based research and policy dialogue has put the ILO in a unique position to combine internationally and nationally recognized research and advocacy at the macro level with intervention on the ground. - ILO’s tripartite structure brings workers and employers around the same table to collectively negotiate key issues in the labour market.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The spirit of the Jordan Compact focuses on facilitating the procedures and costs of work permits to encourage employers to hire Syrians. Most Syrians with work permits have flexible permits in agriculture and construction, allowing them to move between employers. Yet, in 2020, new regulations were introduced by the Ministry of Labour placing late fees on Syrian workers for the delay in renewing their work permits. Requesting from employers to pay fines for workers who did not work for them in the past seems unfair and will discourage employers and Syrian workers to apply for work permits, increasing informal employment among refugees.

    Sustainability and replicability

    Jordan declared 2020 the year of agriculture. The sector is not only important for Jordan’s food security but also because it could be an important source for exports if gaps in the logistical chain are addressed. With the potential reconfiguration of value chains post-COVID, Jordan could increase its exports’ market share. The programme will address these gaps. It will also be important to improve working conditions. In cooperation with the World Bank and ILO, the programme will support the Ministry of Labour in regulating labour in agriculture and putting in place a new inspections system. The ILO is now replicating the same approach in Iraq and Lebanon taking into consideration the unique political context and legal framework in both countries.

    Other sources of information

    Impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable workers in Jordan Impact of COVID-19 on enterprises in Jordan WORK PERMITS AND EMPLOYMENT OF SYRIAN REFUGEES IN JORDAN Helping Syrian refugees formalize their work status through cooperatives Job centre for Syrian refugees opens in Jordan camp Displacement and disability no barrier to work for Syrian refugee A refugee mother determined to provide despite COVID-19……

    COVID-19 Impact

    ILO assessment examining the impact of the pandemic on workers highlights vulnerabilities of informally employed workers, including Syrian refugees. Findings indicate that people in formal work are less affected in times of crises. Efforts, addressing longer-term decent work priorities, will focus more on the formalization of work among different segments including refugees to build back better and achieve decent jobs for all. The ILO is taking measures to mitigate the immediate impact of the crisis on workers, by promoting virtual skills transfer; and working with the employment centres to improve their virtual outreach to workers. A COVID-19 safeguarding guideline was developed by the Cash for Work working group in Jordan, to ensure the safe return of workers to their sites.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 January 2016 (start date)
    31 December 2021 (date of completion)
    International Labour Organization
    Other beneficiaries

    Beneficiaries include Syrian refugees and host communities, women and people with disabilities. ILO’s partners are the Government of Jordan, namely the Ministry of Labour, agricultural cooperatives, the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions, the Jordan Chamber of Industry, the Technical and Vocational Development Commission, the National Employment and Training, the Vocational Training Corporation, the Jordan Cooperatives Corporation.

    More information
    Contact Information

    Nathalie, UN Coherence and Partnerships Officer