Blog Post

Is e-work the solution to the refugees employment crisis?

December 3, 2019

By Ahmad Sufian Bayram

3 min

Opportunities for refugees to work remotely are mostly centered around the tech sector. Most opportunities that are available are in e-commerce, programming, software and mobile app development, digital marketing, graphic design, translation, and data analysis. Refugees have also been employed remotely in nontechnical sectors such as online tutoring and translation. 

This type of job, which remains widely untapped, provides one more option and a positive advantage for young refugees who have just finished their studies and are looking for their first experience. It allows them to work as contractors or freelancers on a project basis. Online work provides flexibility and can introduce one to new clients from anywhere in the world, opening up new possibilities depending on the field of expertise.

In Lebanon and Jordan, Syrian refugees only have the right to work and acquire work permits in limited sectors (for example, agriculture and construction). In Turkey, while Syrian refugees are allowed to work in any sector, employment is restricted by a quota set by the government (one Syrian for every ten Turks). According to “An Examination of Remote Work for Refugees” report.

As a civil engineer, Samer, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee based in Beirut, Lebanon, faced significant challenges in finding a job, because Lebanese law only allows people in his position to work in three sectors: agriculture, construction, and the environment. Therefore, Samer taught himself how to do code and design to find jobs online. He is currently working as a contractor for a couple of companies based in Europe.

With the use of an internet network and a search engine, young refugees can take advantage of the many platforms available online. Creating your own PR is vital, but not necessary since what actually matters is the ability to meet the job requirements in a timely manner.

Online work remains a vague area in legislation. Online workers are not considered “workers” in the sense that they are subject to income taxation or are eligible for social insurance benefits. Thus, they fall into the “informal business” category. Some challenges, however, do exist, and can be categorized as follows:

Skills-related: Many refugees left school due to the war. Remote jobs usually require new and advanced skill sets stemming from previous experience or at least academic training. Those skills include coding, writing, translation, programming, and others. In addition, most of the work requires higher quality standards than the traditional business market.
Logistical: Access to electricity, computers, and high-speed internet. Such essential resources are not available to a significant number of refugees.
Payment: Payment is a particularly difficult issue, which can often single-handedly cause a job opportunity to be wasted. Receiving payments can often pose a challenge for refugees, especially those who do not have a bank account.

While studies on remote work are not new, there is very little research that examines its viability for refugees. Although, this sector can’t solve all of the refugee’s employment issues it makes a good contribution to support them access to jobs and income while also boosting the local economies.

Image credit: Venetia Rainey/Al Jazeera

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