Digital work platforms provide young refugees with a possible pathway to decent work

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The digital economy can provide job opportunities for many young refugees. However, ensuring that their working conditions are decent will require new ways of thinking and acting, says a new ILO report on International Youth Day.

The report Towards Decent Work for Young Refugees and Host Communities in the Digital Platform Economy in Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Egypt and Egypt) found that working in the digital economy has the potential to generate income for refugees. Since they often have difficulty entering local labor markets, refugees may turn to related digital platforms such as Junia or Upwork, in the absence of local livelihood opportunities.

However, there are two main concerns related to refugee work on digital platforms: deficiencies in decent work and a lack of connectivity. Kenya, Uganda and Egypt, the three countries covered in the report, have invested heavily in the digital economy and adopted strategies to increase digital access. However, in 2020, only 22.5 percent of Kenya’s population used the internet, compared to 57 percent in Egypt and 24 in Uganda.

Globally, while 93 percent of refugees are covered by at least one 2G network, they are 50 percent less likely to have a mobile phone connected to the Internet than the general population. For young refugees, access is even more limited.

Other major challenges include difficulties in obtaining a work permit, unstable electricity supply and internet connection, and lack of access to appropriate hardware and software or digital payment systems.

said Andreas Hackl, author of the report. “Without coordinated action, the digital economy can exacerbate the deep-rooted economic and social inequalities that govern the lives of young refugees.”

In order to facilitate refugee access to the digital economy, several initiatives have been launched. Intermediary organizations, such as Social Impact Action Platforms, offer to redistribute job opportunities among refugees and negotiate prices and terms with the platforms on their behalf.

Examples of training in digital technologies, such as coding schools, boot camps, and digital TVET, have been established in Kakuma camp in Kenya, Bidi Bidi settlement in Uganda and in cities hosting a large number of refugees, such as Cairo.

The report contains some recommendations for promoting digital work among refugee youth:

Improving refugee access to the Internet and its associated economic and social dimensions.

Intensify efforts to develop a variety of digital skills among young people that increase their employability in the future of digital work, and at the same time, collaborate with employers and relevant economic sectors to match skills with demands through stronger labor institutions dedicated to refugees.

Support remote refugee employers with financial and technical assistance – including social enterprises and social impact work platforms – and promote formalization strategies in order to obtain better salaries and working conditions for their employees or the self-employed.

– Improving the social dialogue related to digital work, which is practically absent in refugee reception situations, thanks to the access of workers’ and employers’ organizations to workers in refugee camps.

Address the barriers and obstacles to digital livelihoods posed by refugee legal and political systems through political support and high-level policy advice.

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