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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

Southampton professor wins British Academy award to investigate Syrian refugee impact

Published: 12 December 2016Origin: Economics
Economics Professor Jackline Wahba
Professor of Economics Jackline Wahba

A Southampton professor has received a prestigious British Academy award to explore the impact of a huge Syrian refugee influx on Jordan.

Jackline Wahba, Professor of Economics at the University of Southampton, was one of 16 applicants selected for British Academy Sustainable Development Programme funding to further sustainability and work to eliminate poverty.

The grants were awarded to major, interdisciplinary, policy-focused research projects which will help inform policies and interventions to improve people’s lives in fragile, conflict-affected states or developing countries.

With more than 15 million refugees across the world, Jackline’s research will provide evidence on the impact of hosting refugees in developing countries, highlighting both the challenges as well as the potential opportunities. It will inform policymakers on the effects of allowing refugees access to the labour market.

The research will investigate the consequences of hosting 1.3 million Syrian refugees on Jordanian society, the labour market and access to public services in Jordan.

The £260,000 grant is for 16 months and will fund the use of new data to study the socio-economic impact for Jordanians, Syrian refugees and other groups of immigrants, highlighting the effects on women, youth and children.

Jackline said: “It is fantastic to receive this funding which will allow us to deal with several issues that are critical to policymakers.

“Forced displacement is a global challenge. The outbreak of the conflict in Syria has displaced 4.7 million people to neighbouring countries and the 2015 Population Census of Jordan shows that the country is currently hosting 1.3 million Syrians.

“This Syrian influx comes on top of an additional 1.6 million foreigners residing in Jordan. This increase in Jordan’s population undoubtedly places severe pressure on Jordan’s labour markets and public services.

“Using rigorous methodologies and rich new data sets, we aim to provide better understanding of the effects of hosting refugees on Jordanian society, the country’s labour market, and the access and quality of public services.”

The project will focus on: 

  • The labour market – how the impact of the refugee inflow on the labour market is different to that of economic migration due to its sudden nature and large size.
  • Public services – how the refugee influx has increased pressure on public services and whether this is a threat to social cohesion, and access to affordable housing and education.
  • The status of women – how the refugee migration will potentially impact on Jordanian women’s freedom of mobility, female labour market participation and women’s empowerment. It will also study female Syrian refugee status, the barriers they face, and the implications for participating in the host society.

The project will inform policymakers about whether lowering restrictions on labour force participation of refugees would impact negatively on the labour market outcomes of natives, whether provisions of services are adequate, and who the vulnerable groups are.

Jackline added: “Our research project is at the heart of development challenges dealing with strengthening the resilience of communities hosting refugees, but also providing rigorous evidence to inform policy on sustaining governance, growth and human development.

“Understanding the impact of the refugee influx on nationals, existing immigrants and refugees is paramount to improving the welfare of all those affected directly and indirectly, as well as the development of Jordan and Syria once those refugees return back.”

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