New survey shows that after COVID-19, refugees’ socio-economic conditions are worsening
Refugees have specific vulnerabilities that make them among the poorest in the world. Data collected before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic shows that refugees are consistently poorer and more adversely affected than their host communities. The rates of refugees experiencing poverty ranges from 90 per cent in Chad to 11 per cent in Chile. In six of the eight countries where data is available, more than 50 per cent of the refugee population lives below the poverty line.
Evidence collected during the COVID-19 pandemic showed refugees in Bangladesh, Chad (Round 1 and Round 2), Costa Rica, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Uganda, and Yemen suffered significant deterioration in health access, education, wages and employment, non-labour income, and food security.
When it comes to refugee children, intra-household poverty studies in Kenya and Uganda show that they are disproportionately affected. As many as two in three refugee children are extremely poor, and they are up to three times more likely than adults to be poor (Beltramo et al., 2023).
Effective coordination across humanitarian and development programmes has been shown to alleviate poverty, improve living conditions, and result in longer-term investments in sectors such as education and health for refugees and the communities near them. Such area-based programming is necessary for economic integration and social harmony.
Doing so requires good data. Making the case with national governments to include refugees in national surveys is one of UNHCR’s priorities. Continued investment in comparable socioeconomic data is essential to ensure refugees, stateless people, and internally displaced populations are visible in data and programming to achieve UNHCR’s twin protection and solutions goals, the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Comparable socioeconomic data for refugees and hosts has significantly increased in the last decade, thanks to the openness of many, including governments, the World Bank, UNHCR, and the Joint Data Center, to name a few institutions. However, poverty data remains relatively scarce for forcibly displaced and stateless communities. Where poverty data is absent, UNHCR and the World Bank have started to fill in the gap by estimating poverty for refugees using a statistical imputation method or leveraging vulnerability assessments. This has produced poverty numbers for refugees in Chad, enabling evidence-based planning and their inclusion in national development programmes (Beltramo et al., 2021).
UNHCR continues to lead and participate in many data collection exercises that allow for socioeconomic assessment of forcibly displaced people, including in remote areas. At the same time, UNHCR is investing in ensuring its data is publicly available in a safe and protected way to foster the creation of solid evidence around these populations. UNHCR’s microdata library, established in 2020, already features more than 660 datasets spanning nearly 100 countries.
Renewed efforts are needed to deepen and expand the inclusion of refugees, internally displaced, and stateless people in national statistics exercises. To that end, a multi-stakeholder pledge is being developed for the Global Refugee Forum 2023 by the WB-UNHCR Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement (JDC) and the Expert Group on Refugee, IDP and Statelessness Statistics (EGRISS), and supported by UNHCR. The pledge encourages governments to commit to include refugees, internally displaced, and stateless people in their national statistics. The pledge will be announced at the Global Refugee Forum in December.