The impact of Syrian refugees on the Turkish labour market

Ximena V. Del Carpio; Mathis Wagner


1.8 million Syrian people have found refuge in Turkey. Drawing on newly available data, this paper assesses the impact of refugee inflows on Turkish labour market conditions. It finds that these inflows change the level and composition of Turkish employment with particularly negative effects on Turkish workers in informal jobs (particularly women), the low educated, and those working in agriculture.

This paper aims to fill the evidence gap on the consequences of forced displacement for host countries, recognising that existing evidence confounds the labour market effects with other channels, such as the concentration of the humanitarian sector in one particular location. It relies on data from the 2011 and 2014 Turkish Household Labour Force Survey (LFS), Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey (AFAD) information on the number of Syrian refugees; and AFAD’s 2013 survey of the main refugee camps where Syrian refugees live (or pass through when they arrive) in Turkey.

It finds that refugees change both the level and composition of Turkish employment:

  • Refugees disproportionately migrate to Turkish sub-regions that experience unobserved positive shocks to economic conditions
  • There is extensive displacement of Turkish workers by Syrian refugees with the negative impact greater on those who are classified as unpaid employees, and negative employment effects on those in part-time work.
  • Even as employment rates decrease due to the arrival of refugees, unemployment rates also decrease at about the same rate
  • Women experience very large reductions in informal employment and fieldwork without a corresponding increase in formal and regular employment
  • Resulting average wage increase is likely due to the fact that those who have experienced wage losses exit the labour market
  • Increased demand for higher-quality formal jobs that are filled by Turkish workers

The paper concludes with the assertion that data collection on the Syrian refugee community should be the priority in order to be able to fully assess the potential impact of work permits, allowing the refugees to join the formal labour market.


Del Carpio, X. V.; Wagner, M. 2015. The impact of Syrians refugees on the Turkish labor market. Policy Research working paper; no. WPS 7402. Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.