Increasing opportunities for refugees

25 million people are currently asylum-seekers or refugees (McKinsey Global Institute, 2016). The purpose of this webpage is to summarise current practice and understanding about how to help such people become more self-reliant, through increased economic opportunity or employment.

DCED Synthesis Note: private sector development for refugees

Synthesis Note: Private Sector Development for Refugees, DCED, 2017. This 6-page note summarises key research on using private sector development to assist refugees. It includes three key take-aways:

  • More than 25 million people are asylum-seekers or refugees. While many have arrived in Europe, even more are displaced in their home countries or flee to neighbouring countries.
  • The private sector can be central to assisting refugees and addressing conflict or economic drivers of migration. Strategies include (1) supporting new economic opportunities and adaptation of livelihoods to climate change at refugees’ places of origin; 2) enhancing existing income generation activities of refugees to reduce reliance on aid, e.g. through market systems approaches; and (3) leveraging resources of the diaspora as well as private investors to boost humanitarian assistance and productive investments in affected regions.
  • OECD-DAC donors also increasingly use aid funds domestically to address needs of refugees that arrive in their territories. However, legal and language barriers can prevent refugees from integrating into the formal labour market and become more self-reliant.

Key overview documents


Addressing the root causes of displacement

The root causes of migration tend to be multi-faceted, context-specific and difficult to tackle directly. Proposals to increase economic opportunities in countries-of-origin, help to mitigate the effects of climate change, and reduce conflict are all discussed in the below publications.


Livelihood assistance

There is a growing recognition that refugees have an important role to play in the economy. Donors are increasingly trying to facilitate this role. Alex Betts, director of Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre, summed this up in a recent TED talk, which is embedded below (2016).



Diaspora communities and reintegration

Knowledge about the economic implications of refugee return is essential in order to develop adequate policies in the post-conflict period. Diaspora communities have also been identified as an important source of development financing.


Leveraging the private sector to help refugees

Refugees are not just aid recipients, but also potential employees, producers, investees, and customers. As the below publications show, global businesses are increasingly aware of this fact.


Specific country studies

Photo credits

Photo credit: UN Women/Joe Saade (Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)