Over the past 10 years, more than 13 million Syrians have fled their homes and communities. With over 5.6 million now hosted in the region, Turkey quickly became the largest host of refugees in the world with Jordan and Lebanon ranking 2nd and 3rd largest on a per capita basis. Already contending with other pressures, this placed a tremendous strain on these economies, including their labor markets, which have not been able to produce enough jobs for those of working age. The unemployment rate in Jordan rose to 24% in 2020, in Lebanon to 28%, and in Turkey, an economy that is faring much better, some reports indicate that among refugee populations – the unemployment rate was above 17%.
This is not a tenable position for these countries as aid has a limited reach and impact, and in the case of Syria, even for those who wish to, there is little hope for a return home in the coming years. This means that efforts to economically integrate refugees continues to be critical both for these newcomers, and for the broader population and countries in which they now reside. But that is easier said than done. In countries experiencing migration, natural disaster, conflict, and other economic disruption – job creation can be much more difficult.
Given these challenges – even just one new job is something to celebrate. So here at Building Markets, we are extremely proud to announce that we have 3,081 reasons to celebrate.
The latest economic impact numbers are in for our program in Turkey. Over the past three years, with the support of its donors and partners, the Building Markets’ team has helped entrepreneurs win more than $16 million in new contracts. These businesses report that the total number of full-time-equivalent jobs this has created is 3,081 and counting!
The majority of these jobs are in the construction industry, followed by IT services, wholesale/retail, and manufacturing.
Building Markets has been operating in Turkey since 2016. In 2018, the organization focused its efforts on supporting the growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and particularly those owned by or employing refugees. While Turkey is rich in resources, the country is non-Arabic speaking, has a competitive private sector, and can be difficult to navigate for even the savviest of entrepreneurs. Building Markets goal is to find these entrepreneurs, bring them visibility, and help them unleash their job creating potential through training and access to new customers and capital.
Noontek is a great example of the success and scale that a business can have when equipped with the right resources and support. Founded in 2013, Noontek was built on twenty years of experience in the hardware and electronics sector. The company started out in the sale and trade of electronics and computers, but in 2017 it ventured into e-commerce where it started the first electronic platform for the export and sale of Turkish technology products. Through engagement in Building Markets’ services, Noontek expanded its contract-based business and created 120 jobs.
New contracts in the construction sector generated employment for 1,222 people. One of those jobs went to Zakaria Abdulrahim, a stoneworker from Syria. He shared that his new job not only improved his financial situation, it gave him a sense of belonging, and allowed him to put his skills to work. Zakaria had been taking on temporary jobs but needed something more full-time to support his family. Now he is pleased to be employed by SMM Stoneworks, a company building houses and public structures in the southern region of Turkey.
One unexpected piece of great news is the 850 jobs that went to women, particularly in an economy that traditionally favors men. This surprised us. While we make a special effort to support Sustainable Development Goal #5 (achieving gender equality and empowering women), we did not anticipate this outcome. This is not only good for women, but also for their workplaces, social cohesion, and the country.
The world is currently managing the largest refugee crisis in history, with over 82 million people forcibly displaced. Alongside this, in 2020, the number of people living in extreme poverty rose for the first time in 20 years. Job creation is one of the most effective means of establishing stability and tackling poverty – and it can be incredibly hard to achieve among refugee populations where aid is often used in a quick and unsustainable way. This is why we are celebrating these results.
A new job is not just a statistic, it is a chance at a new life, an opportunity for a safer world for families and their children, and provides the promise of a better future.