New York, NY, July 25, 2019 — In accessing paid, decent work, refugee women face restrictive labor market laws, increased threat of violence, discrimination, as well as regulatory and administrative barriers. According to a new analysis conducted by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS), in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), refugee women could generate up to $1.4 trillion to annual global GDP if employment and wage gaps were closed.

Key takeaways from the report:

  • Refugee women’s labor market participation is as low as 6%.
    • Highest refugee women employment rates are seen in the US (40%) and Uganda (37%), but down to as low as 6% in Germany, Jordan and Lebanon.
    • The gender pay gap is highest in Turkey, where there is a pay gap of roughly 94 cents per dollar between refugee women and host men. The gap is lower in the US, where the pay gap is roughly 29 cents per dollar earned.
  • Refugee women could generate up to $1.4 trillion to annual global GDP if employment and earnings gender gaps were closed to meet the national levels of hosting countries, per analysis done in top 30-refugee hosting countries, which host 90% of the world’s refugees.
  • Refugee women in the US alone could contribute $1.6 billion to US GDP.
  • Closing wage and employment gaps for refugee men and women, equalizing wages and employment rates between genders in these countries, could boost global GDP up to $2.5 trillion.
  • Closing pay gaps and removing barriers for refugee men and women in Turkey, Uganda, Lebanon, Jordan, Germany, and the US alone – six countries which together host almost eight million refugees, or 40% of the world’s refugee population – could boost overall GDP by $53 billion.
  • This is five times the combined annual budget of the UN Refugee Agency and International Organization for Migration.

The report focuses on Turkey, Uganda, Lebanon, Jordan, Germany, and the US, and extrapolates findings to the top 30-refugee hosting countries, which collectively host approximately 18 million refugees.

David Miliband, IRC president and CEO, said, “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 non-discriminatory pay rates. Understanding this economic prize is important, but getting there is the fundamental challenge, particularly in the contexts of state fragility and economic vulnerability where most refugees live. That’s why the IRC will continue to focus on employment programs, from Uganda to Lebanon, that remove gender barriers for refugees accessing jobs.

To realize these gains, public commitments must be made by donors and political leaders, and then followed through. For example, candidates to lead the International Monetary Fund, must be asked if they will continue Christine Lagarde’s focus on closing the gender pay gaps around the world, and how they plan to address the specific issue of women refugees.”

Ambassador Melanne Verveer, GIWPS Executive Director, said, “This is not a zero sum game. 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.”

View the full report here.

To advance this agenda, the IRC and GIWPS are calling for the establishment of a Global Refugee Women and Work Commission to assess the particular barriers to economic opportunities facing displaced women and develop recommendations to close the gender-pay and decent work gaps among refugees.

This analysis is part of the IRC’s RescueWorks initiative. RescueWorks programming deploys evidence-based solutions that not only save lives and rebuild livelihoods, but also contribute to the economic vitality and growth of local communities. RescueWorks also provides a platform for new ideas and change across the humanitarian sector. Learn more about RescueWorks here

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic well-being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security seeks to promote a more stable, peaceful, and just world by focusing on the important role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, growing economies, and addressing global threats like climate change and violent extremism. We engage in rigorous research, host global convenings, and nurture the next generation of leaders. Housed within the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, the Institute is headed by former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer. For more information, visit