Social Protection in the Syrian and Jordanian Garment Industry

Project: Research council

Project Details


The garment sector is a key site of work for marginalised refugees, migrant workers, and nationals in both Jordan and Turkey. Their conditions of work, as well as their relationships with each other in and outside the workplace, are critical aspects of overall social cohesion and conflict prevention in the areas where they live. For this reason, policy actors in both countries have taken a special interest in the labour-related and inter-communal dynamics of garment producing areas, pushing for programming that addresses protection issues for the garment workforce. They do so, however, in markedly different contexts. Jordan’s textile industry is highly formalised and controlled, while Turkey’s is diffuse and decentralised. Moreover, the pandemic, as well as ongoing economic crises, have drastically changed the political environment in which these actors try to keep protection issues for marginalised workers on the agenda. With an eye to future conflict prevention, there is an urgent need to understand how the dynamics of labour, social protection/cohesion, and advocacy on behalf of both have evolved in recent years.

Against this backdrop, this project explores how the different models of governance for the garment sector affect labour conditions, inter-communal cohesion, and policy actors’ efforts around social protection. We also seek to understand how these have changed since the start of the pandemic, and with intensifying economic crises in both settings. In doing so, we will contribute to the evidence base on what social protection initiatives are a) politically possible and b) effective in each context, placing a particular focus on the challenge of tackling horizontal inequalities between vulnerable populations of different origins.

This research project is led by Dr Katharina Lenner, Assistant Professor in Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath, UK, Dr Cameron Thibos, managing editor of BTS /openDemocracy, and Dr Emre Eren Korkmaz at Oxford University. The project is conducted in collaboration with respected migrant / refugee worker solidarity organisations in both countries – Tamkeen in Jordan, and ASAM in Turkey. The research includes one-on-one interviews with policy actors and workers in each setting, a series of focus group discussions with workers, and the engagement of community photographers to document the conditions of garment workers (in Jordan). The projects’ outputs, among them a photo exhibition displayed in Amman, Bath, and online that presents a self-narration of life as a garment worker, will not only engage the academic community, but also policy actors and broader audiences to think creatively and in a bottom-up fashion about how to fill gaps in existing social protection initiatives.

The research is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the MENA Social Policy Network ( ) and has received further support OpenDemocracy’s Beyond Trafficking and Slavery (BTS) section, CDS and the University of Bath’s Public Engagement Unit.

It has received ethical approval from the Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee at the University of Bath (Ref. Nr. S22 135).
Effective start/end date1/01/2330/06/24

Collaborative partners


  • AHRC


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