Livelihoods and Economic Inclusion

The opportunity to work and earn a living is one of the most effective ways for people who have fled war and persecution to rebuild their lives in dignity and peace. UNHCR works to promote economic inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers by advocating for their right to work and build their livelihoods through market-oriented programmes; thus helping refugees expand their skills and knowledge, as well as providing access to resources, training, assets, services and markets they might need.

UNHCR’s work in this area is guided by several core principles – including protection, diversity, equity, access and sustainability – outlined in UNHCR’s Global Strategy for Livelihoods (2019-2023). UNHCR aspires that all forcibly displaced people are able to make a safe and sustainable living that meets their basic needs, contributes to their dignity and provides for the full enjoyment of human rights.

Syrian nationals, refugees and stateless persons from Syria in need of international protection are under Temporary Protection in Turkey. The country has provided a solid and comprehensive rights-based legal framework through the Temporary Protection Regulation, offering Syrian refugees access to services including education, health care and the labour market. According to the regulations of the Turkish government, refugees can apply for work permits six months after their registration. With the Syrian refugee crisis entering its tenth year and the protracted nature of the crisis, economic inclusion of refugees and their access to the labour market is crucial for a dignified life. In this context, Turkey sets a positive example.

Turkey has a dynamic economy with labour gaps in various sectors, such as manufacturing. In order to encourage employers to engage refugees to fill those gaps, the fees relating to issuance of work permits were halved in January 2018. UNHCR works closely with public institutions and the private sector and focuses on several aspects: the institutional, legal and administrative environment, the capacity and skills of refugees and the economic absorptive capacity and potential of local labour markets.

UNHCR in Turkey carries out various programmes in cooperation with a wide range of partners and actors:

  1. Cooperation with the Republic of Turkey: The Republic of Turkey is the main partner of UNHCR Turkey. Joint programs are being implemented with Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services of Turkey, Ministry of National Education, Turkish Labor Agency, Vocational Qualifications Authority for work permit facilitation and economic inclusion of refugees as well as local administrations, sub-governorates, municipalities and the Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce.
  2. Cooperation with the Private Sector: The private sector has a great responsibility and a major role in the economy of refugee hosting countries. UNHCR cooperates with the private sector on various aspects in line with this vision.
  3. Vocational Training and Skills Building Programmes: UNHCR Turkey carries out vocational, language training and skills building programs through its partners in line with market demand, industrial strategy and the development plans of Turkey.
  4. Entrepreneurship Programmes: Refugee entrepreneurship is one of the areas where refugees can create added value for host economies and also contribute to social cohesion. As refugee entrepreneurship is one of the rising trends gaining importance due to the increasing number of refugee-owned businesses in Turkey. UNHCR provides support to both potential entrepreneurs and refugee business owners through mentoring, business development support, grants, and registration of unregistered businesses.