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Labor Market Access in Forced Displacement Contexts

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Executive Summary

Refugee populations often lack legal and/or practical access to labor markets. As a result, refugees are excluded from formal, semi-formal or de facto regularized informal work. This pushes them into exploitative and illicit employment and livelihoods options—and depresses wages, working conditions, and other labor standards for all workers. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that economies suffer when refugees cannot fairly and equitably access labor markets.

As an expert agency trusted by governments, the WBG has a unique and vital role to play in strengthening institutional responses and engaging in policy dialogue to address the challenges the forcibly displaced face in fair and equitable access to labor markets. Ensuring refugees’ equal rights as workers is an important component of economic growth and development: it improves national economic outcomes in refugee-hosting countries, reduces corruption and other crime, and safeguards all workers against exploitation. Advancing refugees’ fair and equitable access to labor markets is critical to achieving the WBG’s mission to end poverty and boost shared prosperity.

The WBG should prioritize refugees’ fair and equitable labor market participation as a desired goal in all countries hosting significant numbers of refugees (e.g., 25,000 or more). Specifically, the WBG should:

Examine barriers to refugees’ labor market access when developing Country Plans and consider including projects that address those barriers.

Draw on the technical knowledge and resources of the WBG’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV) team at key moments, such as negotiation of country plans or project plans.

Ensure refugees’ international human rights and unique needs are addressed in Project Plans, including through direct consultation with refugee communities during development and implementation.

Promote implementation of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) core labor standards and implementation of worker rights legal aid for all workers, with a focus on refugees and other marginalized workers.