Cities are home to a wide range of income-earning opportunities, both formal and informal. Re-establishing livelihoods after a disaster as quickly as possible, and supporting livelihood opportunities for refugees and IDPs, are vital activities.
Livelihoods links with other sections in this Good Practice Review, in particular cash and markets (Section 3.3) and assessments (Section 3.6). It also links to protection, where some livelihood activities may be risky to those engaging in them, or where people may be unable to undertake livelihood activities due to age or infirmity (see Section 1.4 on vulnerability).
This section defines livelihoods.+Livelihoods here refers to income-earning opportunities, rather than ‘sustainable livelihoods’ as used within developmental thinking. It discusses livelihoods programming after rapid-onset disasters. For refugee settings it identifies challenges to and opportunities for effective programming. The section ends with points for engaging refugees in livelihoods opportunities.
Livelihoods projects in emergency contexts ‘aim to preserve and restore the income-earning opportunities of affected communities while stimulating economic recovery’.+CRS, Guidance on Livelihoods Programming in Emergency Response and Recovery Contexts (Baltimore, MD: Catholic Relief Services, 2018), p. 1. Livelihoods programming can account for a large portion of post-disaster recovery expenditure.+For example, expenditure on livelihoods programmes from the Disasters Emergency Committee among its 13 operational NGO members in the 2015 Haiti earthquakes accounted for 31% of total expenditure for recovery funding, second only to shelter. In urban areas, and in particular in relation to refugees and their access to jobs, this definition can be expanded to include the need to influence the policy environment in which livelihoods can be secured (this is discussed further below).
Following rapid-onset disasters, livelihood programmes can aid recovery and help improve opportunities for poorer and more vulnerable people, for instance through providing certified skills training (see the case study in Box 4.14). For protracted displacement situations, livelihoods programming is vital. Refugees and IDPs with little if any savings or remittances or insufficient access to employment are particularly vulnerable, and risk falling into deeper debt. A study of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon+UNCHR, UNICEF and WFP, Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon – 2015 Report, cited in IRC, Finding Economic Opportunity in the City: Lessons from IRC’s Cash and Livelihoods Programmes in Cities within Lebanon and Jordan (New York: IRC, 2016) (www.rescue.org/report/finding-economic-opportunity-city), p. 12. found that almost 90% of households surveyed were in debt in 2015, compared to 81% in 2014. Building livelihoods therefore presents opportunities to reduce dependency, and to tap into the varied resources and opportunities available within cities.
NGOs and others have implemented training programmes in a number of post- disaster recovery operations. Following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, UNDP supported training in masonry, plumbing and carpentry as part of an accredited programme, Skills Training for Early Recovery and Reconstruction (STERR). In the 2005 earthquake response in Pakistan, Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan supported a programme of training for men in carpentry, plumbing, electrics, masonry and welding. At the end of the 40-day programme, trainees sat an exam. Those who passed were recognised as suitably qualified and were subsequently hired by local employers. An independent review of the programme found that ‘The trainings helped in enhancing the income of graduates substantially and have been instrumental in establishing a sustainable source of livelihood for the beneficiaries. Most importantly, the training programmes instil skills that will remain with the trainees for life’.
Sources: D. Sanderson and Z. Delica Willison, Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Response Review, 2014 (www.alnap.org/system/files/content/resource/files/main/dec-hc-haiyan-review-report-2014.pdf), p. 4; and A. Hasan et al., ASPK-61 Appeal Earthquake Recovery and Rehabilitation – Pakistan. Evaluation (Geneva: ACT Alliance, 2009), p. 55.
One of the IASC’s strategic objectives in urban post-disaster recovery is: ‘Restore Livelihoods and Economic Opportunities as a Priority, starting in the Emergency Phase for Expedited Early Recovery in Urban Areas’.+IASC, Final Strategy for Meeting Humanitarian Challenges in Urban Areas, 2010 (www.alnap.org/help-library/iasc-strategy-meeting-humanitarian-challenges-in-urban-areas). According to the IASC, livelihood restoration in response strategies can be strengthened by:
Key considerations in programming for livelihoods recovery include:+This discussion is based on the British Red Cross’s experiences in urban livelihood recovery in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
The key finding of a wide-ranging study of urban refugees across eight countries is that ‘A common thread weaves the argument that urban refugees could be highly beneficial to cities if they were allowed to pursue productive lives absent of legal restrictions, harassment and insecurity’.+K. Jacobsen, ‘Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Urban Areas: A Livelihoods Perspective’, Journal of Refugee Studies 19(3), 2006, p. 1. It is unsurprising that, globally, the majority of refugees choose to live in cities. This is in no small part due to the livelihood opportunities they offer. Research by UNHCR in a number of countries+UNHCR, Designing Appropriate Interventions in Urban Settings: Health, Education, Livelihoods, and Registration for Urban Refugees and Returnees (Geneva: UNHCR, 2009). Note this research took place before the Syrian crisis. concluded that most refugees of working age are either employed or self-employed, in both the formal and informal economy. That said, livelihood opportunities for urban refugees face a number of challenges, including:
Prevention of the right to work. Many refugees are refused the right to work in their host countries, closing off opportunities to engage in society, pay taxes and enjoy various forms of insurance. Skilled and experienced people who find themselves as refugees are prevented from formally applying for positions that match their vocation or expertise.
Precarious existence in the informal economy. Many refugees have no other option but to work in the informal sector. This in many ways is a benefit (at least as against having no work at all) and has been the mainstay of millions of urban dwellers for decades. However, the informal economy does not bring the benefits usually associated with formal employment, such as social security, health and safety and fair employment practices.
Refugees may have little or no documentation to prove they are qualified in a certain profession. They may also lack the funds to begin an enterprise or establish a livelihoods activity. They almost certainly lack (in the initial stages at least) the social capital to link with existing employment activities. Refugees may also be from a rural background, and may have to re-train to be relevant to the urban labour market.
Exploitation risks. Refugees working in the informal sector may be exploited, for instance being paid less than locals. In Lebanon, this has increased tensions between displaced and host communities living in often impoverished urban areas. Here, host communities perceive the lower salaries as an unfair form of competition. Some refugees may also have no choice other than to work in illegal or risky areas, such as commercial sex or child labour.
For further examples of livelihoods and refugees, drawing on case studies from Khartoum, Nairobi, Yei, Juba, Kabul and Nairobi, see S. Haysom, Sanctuary in the City? Urban Displacement and Vulnerability, HPG Report (London: ODI, 2013) (www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/8444.pdf).
Interventions related to urban refugee livelihoods include:+This section draws in particular on UNHCR, Designing Appropriate Interventions in Urban Settings; IRC, Finding Economic Opportunity in the City.
IRC’s Livelihoods Centres in Akkar and Mount Lebanon are open to both Syrians and Lebanese who need assistance in legal matters and finding employment. Assistance is provided in developing business plans and securing small start-up grants. At the centres, ‘job-seekers are able to take advantage of intensive counselling services, with some also receiving training in marketable skills and – within the constraints of the Lebanese labour regulations – opportunities for on-the-job learning/ apprenticeships and short-term cash-for-work projects’.
Source: IRC, Finding Economic Opportunity in the City: Lessons from IRC’s Cash and Livelihoods Programmes in Cities within Lebanon and Jordan (New York: IRC, 2016) (www.rescue.org/report/finding-economic-opportunity-city).
A livelihood programme for younger refugees and host populations in Dollo Ado and Shire in Ethiopia comprises basic literacy and numeracy skills and practical vocational training. The programme, implemented by NRC, undertakes market assessments to gauge the relevance of skills training. People on the scheme have been trained in a variety of skills, including plumbing, electronics and hotel management. An evaluation of the programme found that ‘refugees and host community members work together to maximise their income generating potential. For example, host community beneficiaries (who know the refugees from vocational training programmes) work with their refugee peers to help them purchase or sell goods on the market as well as to procure local host communities contracts’.
Source: Samuel Hall, Thinking Forward about Livelihoods for Refugees in Ethiopia – Learning from NRC’s programming 2013–2016, 2016 (http://samuelhall.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Thinking-forward-about-Livelihoods-for-Refugees-in-Ethiopia-FINAL-REPORT.pdf).
UNHCR observes that, ‘In urban settings, successful livelihood interventions result from a good understanding of the context, of the attitudes of potential beneficiaries and the capacity to identify existing services which can support refugees in the employment ambitions’.+UNHCR, ‘Livelihoods and Self Reliance in Urban Areas’ (https://www.unhcr.org/4eeb19f49.pdf). Strategic interventions for engaging refugees in improved livelihoods opportunities include:
Further guidance and ideas can be found in Feinstein International Center, Refugee Livelihoods in Urban Areas: Identifying Program Opportunities, 2012 (www.alnap.org/system/files/content/resource/files/main/adult-app-form-march-2012.pdf).
An inventory of toolkits and guidance notes can be found at ‘Livelihoods’ and ‘Emergency Livelihoods’, Humanitarian Response, 2018 (www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/topics/environment/page/livelihoods; and www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/iraq/social-cohesion-and-sustainable-livelihoods).
The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) ‘aims to strengthen the evidence base and inform policy and practice around livelihoods, basic services and social protection in conflict-affected situations’. See https://securelivelihoods.org/about-slrc/.
Food Security and Livelihoods in Urban Settings Working Group, Food Security Cluster, 2018 (http://fscluster.org/food-security-and-livelihoods-urban/workinggroup/food-security-and-livelihoods-urban).
What is a Livelihood?, IFRC, 2018 (www.ifrc.org/en/what-we-do/disaster-management/from-crisis-to-recovery/what-is-a-livelihood/).
Guidelines for Integrating Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action: Livelihoods, IASC, 2015 (https://gbvguidelines.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/TAG-livelihood-08_26_2015.pdf).