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A refugee from CAR holds her granddaughter as she learns the French alphabet as part of an adult education class held at the UN Women Social Cohesion space.
Ryan Brown/UN Women
Girls & Women

Closing the Wage Gap for Female Refugees Could Generate $1.4 Trillion Annually


Why Global Citizens Should Care
There are more refugees in the world today than there were during World War II, displaced by conflict, climate change, and disaster. Millions of people leave their homes to seek safety and build a future for themselves and their families, but many are subjected to discrimination and lack labor protection. You can join us in taking action on related issues here.

While it's not uncommon for male refugees to receive unequal pay due to immigration status restrictions, discrimination, or a mismatch of skills, the wage gap is more pronounced for female refugees.

And if these wage gaps were closed in the 30 countries with the highest number of refugees, and more employment opportunities were made available, refugee women alone could add up to $1.4 trillion to annual global GDP, according to a new study.

The analysis, conducted by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS), in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), found that refugee women could generate more than $5 billion in just six countries alone — Turkey, Uganda, Lebanon, Jordan, Germany, and the United States. 

People are displaced from their homes for many reasons ranging from civil war to natural disasters. Nearly half of them are women and girls. And many of them — about 26 million thus far — are refugees who resettle in host countries, hoping to build a new life.

Large scale migration can be met with racism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiment. And, often, women and girls suffer discrimination twice as much, both based on their migration status, or race, and their gender. 

The recent report found that the pay gap is highest in Turkey, where refugee women only earn six cents for every dollar that men in the host country make. The gap is much lower, but still significant, in the United States, where refugee women earn 71 cents per every dollar host men make. Although the US sees the highest employment rates for refugee women among the countries analyzed — about 40% of female refugees in the country work — it also hosts the lowest number of refugees — with just over 287,000 — compared to Turkey, Uganda, Lebanon, Jordan, and Germany.

Read More: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Offers to Resettle Australia's Refugees — Again

“Our analysis shows the extraordinary scale of economic rewards, for both refugee women and the economies they live in, if they were able to access local jobs at nondiscriminatory pay rates,” IRC president David Miliband said in a statement.

“That’s why the IRC will continue to focus on employment programs, from Uganda to Lebanon, that remove gender barriers for refugees accessing jobs.”

According to the report, refugee women in the US alone could contribute $1.6 billion to the economy.

If the work of male refugees were also added to the count, refugee workers in total could boost global GDP by $53 billion across the six countries highlighted above — which host 40% of the world’s total refugee population — and up to $2.5 trillion across the top 30 host countries.

"This is not a zero sum game,” Melanne Verveer, executive director of Global Refugee Women and Work Commission, said in a statement. 

“When refugee women are gainfully employed, they and their families benefit — along with their communities and host countries. Our findings underscore the need for regulatory reforms and policy change to unlock refugee women's potential."