New CARE study: Syrian refugees, cash-strapped and without work, struggle in seventh year of crisis
Jun 20, 2017
Amman, : An astounding 82 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan are living below the poverty line, says a new study from CARE International.
The report, “Seven Years into Exile,” underscores a trend in the regional refugee crisis, highlighting that Syrians in Jordan remain desperate for work, impacted by debt, and struggling with changing gender roles within families as more women seek employment.
“Despite Syrian refugee numbers in Jordan remaining more or less constant, we continue to see a trend towards greater aid dependence,” says Eman Ismail, deputy country director for CARE International in Jordan, referring to the 40 per cent of refugees who identified aid as their main source of income, an increase from 33 per cent in 2016.
“Mothers and fathers are doing their best to provide for their families, but without employment, many are falling short.”
The CARE report found that while 78 per cent of those surveyed are unemployed, a staggering 89 per cent of refugees are saddled with increasing debt, pointing to monthly expenditures for rent, food, and medicine which, with other costs, resulting in expenses 25 per cent more than average family income.
While the international community and Jordanian authorities have taken steps to include Syrians in Jordan’s economic development, only one in five Syrian refugees reported having a work permit due to multiple obstacles including lack of jobs and a required one year contract.
Likewise, very few permit holders were women, although the sectors available are ill-matched for most women.
“Still, we must recognize that women are increasingly called upon to support their families financially,” Ismail highlights. “This is creating new stress within families, and additional expectations on women already caring for children and the household.”
The CARE study found that almost one-third of households are female-headed and facing multiple protection concerns compared to men. Also, as caregivers are often responsible for the household, many women prefer to work in more home-based activities or informal work sectors which allow them greater flexibility, but can also expose them to increased risks and fewer legal protections.
While the vast majority of Syrian refugees live in rented accommodation, researchers found a sharp increase in the percentage of families who were forced to move because of eviction, or because they could no longer afford rent. Female-headed households are especially at risk and facing increasing housing insecurity.
“These disturbing findings urge us to seek out longer term solutions in meeting the needs of Syrian refugees and members of the host community in Jordan,” Ismail says. “Both women and men have told us they would like to build a business, something sustainable – but they need cash and assets to start. CARE is working with these communities, helping pilot interventions that promote a more hopeful future.”
While more than 79 per cent of refugees reported using negative, or even harmful coping methods in order to cover their expenses, including child labour and early child marriage, a positive change was detected in the lower percentage of families reporting their child was working, (4 per cent) or involved in early child marriage, (2 per cent).
As in previous years, one third of Syrian youth remain out of school – many of them for several years now – yet refugees cite education as a top priority among both girls and boys. Almost 7 per cent of families removed their children from school in order to save money on books, transportation, and other school-related costs.
Syrian focus groups also highlighted the increased psychological stress on refugees that continues to negatively impact children, as well as elderly members of the household who suffer from a lack of financial support necessary to meet their needs, with older women having to work to provide for themselves.
Likewise, poor economic conditions and living with multiple families in one household is increasing psychological stress and depression, and the potential for domestic violence among family members.
In the 2017 report, CARE again measures the situation of vulnerable Jordanians and their attitudes toward Syrian refugees, finding that Jordanians continue to feel the impact of refugees when seeking accommodation, employment, and accessing health services. Both groups are affected by poor economic situations, causing competition for jobs in formal and informal sectors, however, both groups also reported that community tensions remain low. At the same time, respondents recorded social cohesion as equally low.
“As the years pass, we are seeing disturbing trends that cannot be sustained. We must seek solutions that help families provide for themselves – opening opportunities for both men and women – with a vision towards long term sustainability,” Ismail says, echoing recommendations offered in the report.
“As long as the war continues, there remain thousands of people in need, both refugees and Jordanians in the host community, but they are not without agency, not without capacities – they only need a hand up. The international community can go a long way in helping make this happen. It’s not too late.”
Notes to editors:
The research data was collected in April 2017, through interviews with 2,184 respondents in households, as well as focus group discussions and individual interviews with Syrian, and among other refugee groups, as well as Jordanian women, men, and male and female youth, and other key stakeholders, including senior CARE Jordan staff, representatives of the Jordanian government, and staff working in local NGOs. Respondents were geographically distributed across the northern governorates with the highest concentrations of Syrian non-camp refugees, (including Amman with 25.3% of respondents; Zarqa, 19.7%; Irbid, 21.8%; and Mafraq, 19.5%), and from a southern governorate, Karak, (13.6% of survey respondents).
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