The Syrian conflict has presented the international community and host communities alike with a displacement crisis of unprecedented magnitude. In Jordan, there are an estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees, the vast majority of which are unemployed.

To address this crisis, the Jordan Compact, a new partnership between the international community and Government of Jordan that provides a pathway to economic opportunity for both refugees and Jordanians, was crafted. However, progress towards converting on the economic opportunities provided by the Compact has been slow.

To understand the obstacles in making progress towards the Jordan Compact, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) conducted qualitative discussions with Syrian refugees to uncover the barriers they face in accessing the labor market. The goal of this report is to offer a diagnosis of the supply-side issues that have impeded progress in order to prescribe effective solutions for the context.

Four refugee archetypes, based on common experiences in the labor market, emerge from our discussions: (1) risk-averse and fearful refugees who have withdrawn from the labor market; (2) desperate refugees with little bargaining power in the work place; (3) entrepreneurial refugees who have patched together informal portfolios of work; and (4) determined refugees hampered by a lack of information and uncertainty.

These archetypes provide insight into the type of barriers that refugees face in navigating the labor market. The stories they tell speak to the ways in which polices, poor information, a lack of power, and material constraints hinder their ability to access safe and decent work. The discussions we conducted also provide reason for optimism and illuminate opportunities to get refugees into safe and decent work. The refugees we spoke with expressed a willingness to work in textiles, agriculture, manufacturing and construction; sectors with at-scale opportunity to employ refugees in Jordan.

This report concludes with a set of recommendations that aim to loosen the constraints refugees face and calls for the relaxation of occupational restrictions and work permit application processes, the creation of credible matchmaking services, clear information on job opportunities and the implications of taking on formal work, and gender-specific solutions in the workplace. Implementing these changes and launching these services are crucial to ensuring that Jordanians and refugees are able to capture the benefits of the Jordan Compact.