Accepted Paper:

Identifying the effects of limited work opportunities on transitions to adulthood among young refugees in Uganda and Jordan  


Wayne Shand (University of Manchester)
Lorraine van Blerk (University of Dundee)

Paper short abstract:

Young refugees face multiple challenges to attaining social adulthood due to lost social and material capital and legal limits to employment. This paper explores the experiences of young refugees in Jordan and Uganda to examine the impact of limited work opportunities on transitions to adulthood.

Paper long abstract:

UNHCR report that there are some 65 million displaced people across the globe, with 16 million people classified as refugees, living in host countries (UNHCR, 2017). Alongside rising numbers of refugees, the patterns of displacement are changing with a majority of refugees living outside of formal camps in urban areas and the average period of exile for refugees, in situations of protracted displacement, is more than 20 years (UNHCR, 2016). With over half of all refugees under the age of 18, this changing context creates particular challenges for how young people attain social adulthood.

Overlapping impacts arising from the traumatic experiences of displacement, loss of material and social capital, experience of poverty and exclusion and the limiting effects of the institutional categorisation of refugee, severely constrain traditional pathways into adult life for young refugees. This paper draws from youth-led qualitative research undertaken in the diverse contexts of Uganda and Jordan to explore youth transitions into adulthood. Focusing specifically on work, as a primary route into adult life, the paper will examine how limited opportunities due to weak labour market conditions, legal restrictions on participation and the effects of discrimination combine to shape the construction of social adulthood. The findings of the research have implications for both how youth transitions are conceptualised for young refugees and for the design of humanitarian and development policy and programming.

Panel L01
The dynamics of youth inequalities: aspirations, agency and multidimensional poverty (Paper)