ILOs project for better working conditions in the Middle East

International issues Recently Ellen Nygren from the LO International Department took part in a field mission to Lebanon and Jordan in order to learn about the activities pursued by the ILO in the Middle East, with the aim of labour market integration of Syrian refugees and improved working conditions for migrant workers.


Published Updated
Kopiera länk för delning

Recently I took part in a field mission to Lebanon and Jordan in order to learn about the activities pursued by the ILO in the Middle East, with the aim of labour market integration of Syrian refugees and improved working conditions for migrant workers. This mission gave me many deep insights and memories of encounters with devoted people. We visited workplaces in Lebanon and Jordan where refugees and local inhabitants work side by side, as well as factories where there are migrant workers who are not refugees.

The Arabic region is the part of the world with the largest inequalities between groups of people. Some are well-off and many are extremely poor. The unemployment rate is very high, and it is higher among refugees than local inhabitants. The unemployment rate of young people is alarmingly high as well, even among those with a university degree. Out of women, only one tenth are in gainful employment. Projects are pursued by the ILO in the region with the aim of fostering long-term economic and social development in the countries hosting refugees from Syria. The focus of the ILO strategy is on supporting coordinated national efforts, encouraging livelihood opportunities through labour-intensive activities, skills development and encouraging entrepreneurship. In addition, the ILO focuses on supporting the labour market authorities, in order to ensure better respect of fundamental rights at work, including the abolition of child labour. 

The concrete examples that we encountered were labour-intensive projects for work on road maintenance, water purification and in the textile industry, where some of the workers undergo programs for certification of their knowledge to be better equipped in order to seek jobs in the future. The ILO also conducts activities to increase knowledge of occupational health and safety issues and what rights one has as an employee, according to national legislation. In addition, efforts are made for refugees' opportunities to get work permits and thus the ability to earn their own living through regular work. Vocational training is another area for the ILO's projects in the region.

The ILO’s conclusions on its activities undertaken in the region so far are, among other things, that the tripartite structure of the ILO (governments, employers and trade unions) gives the ILO a unique position compared to other UN agencies and development cooperation organisations. Involving national institutions from the beginning of a crisis situation is an effective way of working that promotes sustainability and national responsibility. The social partners and the social dialogue are important in this process. Formal access to the labour market does not automatically lead to decent work. Gender equality must be integrated into the activities from the beginning.

The ILO's development cooperation operations are serious and valuable for many people's opportunities for independent life and decent work. For those who want to read more on the topic, there is a great deal of information to be found on the ILO's website.

Ellen Nygren