Dickenson, Kate

Start date:
October 2017
Research Topic:
The experiences of young refugee workers in East Africa
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Professor Alison Brown, Dr Peter Mackie, Dr Sergei Shubin
Supervising school:
School of Planning and Geography,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

Over half of the 22.5 million refugees worldwide are children or adolescents who will be of ‘working age’ in the coming years. Globally, young people (aged 15-24) are often in the weakest position in the labour market, however refugees can face particular difficulties because of their marginalisation from full legal, social and civil participation. In Sub-Saharan Africa, which hosts 26% of the world’s refugee population, economic challenges are heightened by its “youth bulge” and high levels of youth unemployment. Despite these trends, there is a dearth of data on young urban refugees and a particular absence of studies looking at the livelihoods of young refugees and their safe pathways to economic resilience.

This research investigates the experiences and aspirations of young refugee workers in two cities in East Africa. From the perspective of refugees themselves it identifies the spatial and institutional geographies they inhabit, their past and potential livelihood pathways and their perceptions of their experiences both as refugees and young (sometimes undocumented) workers. This contributes to literatures on young refugees and the urban informal economy but also to a reappraisal of the humanitarian approach to refugee right to work, and its policy implications.

It uses an international case study approach in Kampala, Uganda, where refugees have the legal right to work, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they do not. It uses in-depth qualitative and participatory methods.