The global refugee crisis and its labour market implications

Statement by Ambassador Steffen Kongstad, Permanent Representative of Norway.

Thank you, Chair.

We welcome and appreciate that the Office decided to organize a session to address the labour market implications of the high and growing number of refugees worldwide.

We recognize that this is truly a global issue. We are all affected as the DG said in his introductory remarks. We also recognize that it affects developing countries in particular hosting an estimated 86 per cent of the 60 million people in the world who are forcibly displaced.

We hope that this discussion in the GB will highlight, and further develop, ILO’s role and contribution to promote sustainable livelihood and decent work for both refugees and affected host communities.

Effective interventions to assist refugees and their host communities demand holistic and coordinated responses, both in the short- and the long run. We would therefore have welcomed the presence of other UN agencies here today.

We will follow with great interest the perspectives of other UN agencies and international organizations on the role they envision for the ILO in this regard, and, more concretely, on ways to enhance the cooperation between the different agencies involved.

We are aware that ILO is working closely with other UN agencies in Syria´s neighbouring countries. These countries are currently hosting the large majority of Syrians fleeing from a country ridden by conflict, and it is having a profound impact on their respective labour markets. We believe that ILO has a significant role to play in ensuring a sustainable approach to these issues that can promote decent work and economic growth for both refugee and host communities.

ILOs work in Syria´s neighbouring countries is a clear example of the importance of their engagement for the implementation of the 2030-agenda. It is an illustration of how the sustainable development goal no. 8 on inclusive growth and decent work is crucial to the achievement of other goals, such as the promotion of peaceful societies. We therefore welcome "Jobs for Peace and Resilience" as an ILO Flagship Programme, and hope that this will serve as a means to make ILOs current engagements better known.

ILO’s labour market analyses are an important resource and could benefit other actors, including humanitarian actors, in their work. It is essential that these are made available, both to national governments and to potential partners.

We acknowledge that flows of people often are mixed, with migrants travelling along the same routes as those seeking protection and asylum. The Director General´s migration report prepared for the 103rd ILC was an important start to setting the ILO agenda on Fair Migration. The workplace is key – both for successful integration and self-reliance. Labour market policies must be an integral part of integration efforts. Language skills, social networks, community connectedness, a purpose and a future – the inclusion of refugees in the labour market provides an important platform to achieve all of these. The principles of decent work are a prerequisite for the labour market to constitute a tool for protection, integration and self-reliance.

ILO can play a role in advising on and promoting fair migration schemes. At the same time, ILO’s main focus should be the promotion of decent work, in countries of origin as well as in host communities. This applies both to refugees that engage in work to secure their livelihood, and the broader group of migrants.  

Thank you, Chair.