Access to Labour Markets for Refugees and Forcibly displaced persons

An important area of work includes providing policy guidance to ILOs constituents in facilitating access to labour markets for refugee and forcibly displaced persons. Refugees and displaced persons when employed outside their countries are considered migrant workers and are covered by ILO’s migrant workers Conventions. While under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention signatory parties should permit access to “wage earning employment” to refugees and should give them the right to freedom of movement, a large number of host countries limit the freedom of movement to refugees and most forcibly displaced persons and restrict their access to labour markets. This situation often results in unfair competition for unauthorized and unprotected jobs in the informal economy.

In providing technical assistance to host countries, the ILO takes into consideration the pre-existing/structural economic weaknesses in host country economies (e.g. high rates of poverty), labour market challenges (e.g. unemployment and underemployment, large informal economies, large numbers of low-skilled and low-wage jobs), operational and procedural challenges (e.g. specific criteria or requirements on work permit, payment of fees, a pre-existing job offer, quotas), outdated legislation, administrative challenges (e.g. weak labour market institutions), and not conducive political conditions .

For example, ILO’s Refugee Intervention Framework (RIF) has adopted a development-focused and employment-driven strategy to support host communities and refugees. Access to employment and livelihoods has emerged as the bridge between humanitarian action and development cooperation and, in this context, the ILO continues to play its part in supporting critical response programmes, including through strengthening its own policy framework to be able to respond more rapidly and effectively to these situations.
  • In 2016-2017, ILO Members States adopted a comprehensive set of Guiding Principles on the Access of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to the labour market. This tool assists Members and other national and international partners in formulating sustainable labour market and livelihood responses to these movements.
  • In addition, a new landmark standard, the Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience Recommendation, 2017 (No. 205) was recently adopted. Sections X on Migrants affected by crisis situations; and XI. Refugees and returnees, provide the legal and technical framework and specialized knowledge to respond to labour market challenges that host communities may face concerning refugee and forcibly displaced persons’ access to the labour market and other employment-related issues.