Special Economic Zones for Refugee Employment

Professor Alexander Betts (Oxford Department of International Development), Professor Paul Collier (Blavatnik School of Government)

filling bagsSpecial Economic Zones for Refugee Employment
Most refugees flee to neighbouring haven countries where jobs are scarce. The governments of these havens consequently deny them the right to work. Refugees pass years dependent on aid in camps, or take clandestine work in which they are highly vulnerable. In April 2015, Betts and Collier were invited to Jordan to undertake fieldwork on the Syrian refugee crisis. Based on this and their years of complementary prior research, Betts on refugees, Collier on economic development, they proposed a new model as an alternative to camps. This was to attract firms to Jordan’s Economic Zones, generating jobs that could be shared between refugees and Jordanians. The Government of Jordan agreed to pilot it. Betts and Collier convinced the British Government and the World Bank of its viability, and the European Commission agreed to grant Jordan market access to encourage firms to produce there. The model became the basis of the Jordan Compact. This has resulted in over 80,000 work permits for Syrian refugees in a country that previously denied them the right to work. The model is now going global. Ethiopia has adopted the approach and the World Bank has created a new $2bn fund to support refugee haven countries.