Case Studies

/Employment Intensive Investment Programme for Jordanians and Syrian refugees
Case Holder:
Hazim Abu Issa

Employment Intensive Investment Programme for Jordanians and Syrian refugees

Promotion of Youth Employment in Fragile Settings

Background & Context

The conflict in Syria began as an offshoot of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The movement began as an uprising for democracy. But in the past five years it has since disintegrated into a cauldron of competing rebel groups, terrorist elements, international powers, and religious factions – with millions of Syrians killed and many millions more displaced.

Syria’s civil war has created the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population — more than 11 million people — have been killed or forced to flee their homes.

According to the latest census for Jordan, the total number of Syrians residing in the Kingdom of Jordan is around 1.3 million, 637,000 of whom are refugees registered with UNHCR. The registered Syrian refugee population in Jordan is equivalent to about 10 per cent of the total population, which is putting a heavy pressure on Jordanian society, natural resources and economy, including the labour market.

As a donor and on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Development Bank (KfW) signed an agreement with ILO. Germany’s funding for the project is part of a pledge by Berlin made during the London donor conference in February. KFW provided the ILO with a first tranche of 10 million euros to fund a two-and-a-half-year project that will work at improving the lives of thousands of Syrian refugees and Jordanians by creating jobs and upgrading infrastructure, and also addressing labour market challenges such as high unemployment (especially among women and youth) and increasing informalisation, child labour and other decent work deficits.


The Problem

Jordan has received a large influx of refugees, posing variouschallenges at national and local levels, with the greatest impact on thenorthern governorates which have been hosting the largest number of refugees.Scarce resources and the permitted access of refugees to health and educationservices have resulted in a huge burden on the local communities in these governorates;the services, resources and infrastructure of these Governorates have beenstrained by the influx of refugees.

A 2015 ILOLabour market study in Jordan showed that 50 per cent of Jordanians and 99 per centof Syrians are working in the informal economy. De facto this means that these jobs fall completely outside thescope of any form of governance. This has a negative impact on the quality ofthe jobs provided such as sub-standard wages, poor working conditions andexploitative practices, including child labour. At the same time thecompetition for jobs has led to social tensions.

This is of particularconcern in the northern governorates, Zarqa, Irbid and Mafraq, and in Ammanwhere the share of Syrian refugees is greatest. The vast majority of theserefugees — 81 per cent — live in cities and towns instead of camps, where theymainly rely on themselves to cover rent, transportation and medical costs. Alimited number of refugees have work permits, and thus most of these familiesrely on the labour market and on humanitarian assistance to meet their mostbasic needs.

The presence of therefugees in Irbid and Mafraq has also increased the usage of the roads and theamount of waste being dumped on roads and in the drains. The refugees` presencehas been seen as the cause of the overall reduction in services and the generallydifficult situation.


The project’s general aim is to improve the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Jordan and of Jordanians through increased employment and improved infrastructure in Jordan.

This overall programme objective has been split into two outcomes: (i) to improve rural infrastructure through the use of labour-intensive methods for men and women; and (ii) to create employment for Syrian refugees and Jordanians equally (i.e. 50% Jordanians and 50 % Syrians, of which women should account for 10% and people with disabilities 3%).

The work hinges on improving the tertiary road infrastructure as well as local agricultural infrastructure through farm improvement activities. Some schools will be rehabilitated while additional classrooms will be constructed in overcrowded schools.

Investment in public works, including tertiary roads, agriculture infrastructure and schools will create four types of employment effects:

  • direct employment effects in the form of short-term job opportunities during the construction period and long-term job opportunities through operation and maintenance;
  • indirect employment effects through sourcing material and equipment from local suppliers;
  • induced effects resulting from additional local consumption through the wages generated on the project;
  • spin-off effects by increasing access to markets for local businesses and farms.

The programme pays attention to ensuring decent work conditions, including the following: occupational safety and health (OSH); no child labour and equal pay for work of equal value; safeguards for environmental protection; graduating mechanisms that allow participating workers to graduate out of the programme into sustainable livelihoods; and creation of or increases in asset values in public, agricultural and environmental infrastructure.

Value Proposition & Activities

This project contributes to improving access to formal employment opportunities for Syrian refugees which needs to take place in a context of job rich economic growth that benefits both Jordanians and Syrians. The programme covers two northern governorates, Irbid and Mafraq, and includes the following:

  • for roads, award of fourteen contracts; duration of contracts is six months, involving undertaking of routine maintenance, roads rehabilitation, and drainage activities;
  • for agriculture, (300) three hundred agreements signed with farmers, works including construction of water cisterns, terracing, and forestry;
  • for community work, signed agreements with two municipalities, works including clearance of roads, parks and debris; waste collection; etc.

The project builds on recent ILO work in the governorates of Irbid and Mafraq within the framework of the Syria crisis response.

The construction industry is regarded as among the most efficient in generating employment for a given capital inflow.


The activities

These include the following:

  • improving rural infrastructure through the use of labour-intensive methods for men and women;
  • improving tertiary roads through drain construction for existing roads using labour–based technologies;
  • expanding the agricultural infrastructure of local farms, by building water catchments to collect rainwater and soil protection systems through terracing and planting;
  • building additional classrooms in high-density schools and rehabilitating existing old schools using labour-based methods;
  • enhancing the capacity of the private sector at national and local levels to implement employment-intensive approaches for men and women, through designing and rolling out a training package for engineers on employment-intensive methods;
  • improving the maintenance of public, environmental and agricultural infrastructure and reviewing national contracting procedures to maximize employment outcomes for both women and men in infrastructural work;
  • enhancing the skills of both men and women refugees and Jordanians to facilitate their exit from the programme to more suitable jobs; and
  • improving coherent implementation of the regulatory framework for work permits by conducting awareness-raising campaigns on work permits so as to disseminate clear instructions to relevant stakeholders; and conducting gender-sensitive capacity-building in the Ministry of Labour at governorate level on the new work permit regulations to ensure adequate enforcement.


  • 350,000 working days in EIIP; and
  • Creation, rehabilitation and maintenance of assets (roads, schools and farmers’ land) for the sustainable benefit of the community.


Learning & results

  • It should be realized that employment investments and labour-based approaches are different from cash-for-work projects and that it takes time and proper planning to ensure that these are correct.
  • It took far longer than planned to establish legal ways of working in Jordan and the physical work on the ground started far later than planned.
  • Sufficient time for proper planning is being allowed.
  • Experience shows that it takes time and many consultation meetings before implementation agreements are signed.
  • An implementation agree- ment with any new devel-opment partner should be negotiated far in advance.
  • It takes time for MPWH engineers to complete road condition surveys including compilation of quantities, tendering and evaluation.
  • Selection and road cond-ition surveys should start far ahead of time (allowing, say, a duration of two months to complete the exercise) and tendering and evaluation can take another 1.5 months.
  • In the road sector the contractors were not performing well in organizing the works and giving tasks to the workers. This indicates that contractors still need support in planning and organizing of works under the task system which is new to them.
  • Training of longer duration should be provided to the contractors’ site engineers (with a practical demonstration), and mentoring provided more frequently by the programme team.
  • Work on each farm can be completed within between two weeks and one month and the workers consequently end up again having to look for new employment.


Conclusion & the future

  • Some work will generate more employment than other types; for example, municipalities will create more job opportunities with a labour-intensity of 82%, while the road sector will create fewer work opportunities with a labour-intensity of 39%.
  • Under the MoA, the programme may have to report fewer job opportunities since farmers complete their work in less than one month. Therefore work opportunities fulfilling the minimum requirement of 40 days cannot be recorded.
  • It took far longer than planned to establish legal ways of working in Jordan and physical work on the ground started taking off only in the second quarter of 2017.
  • The average labour-intensity expected overall is 45%, based on the projects to be implemented in Phase I, which is acceptable.
  • It is important to establish a system under which the employment created can be monitored through the records of employed workers (head counts) and the number of workdays recorded in the programme.