Jobs, security & refugees

The eyes of the world are on Europe’s refugee crisis. Understandably, attention has turned to providing emergency relief for those who’ve been pushed across the Mediterranean Sea by poverty and war. At Hand in Hand, we think it’s just as essential to tackle the root causes of the biggest migration since the Second World War. 

By creating jobs we can raise the standard of living of potential refugees in Afghanistan, the source of the second highest number of recent arrivals into Europe.

By the numbers


20% of refugees arriving in Europe by sea are Afghan


Only 10% of Afghans are in regular, waged employment


The average working Afghan earns US $16 a month


Up to 44% of the families we work with are sometimes forced to skip meals

Moving forward

Creating a job in the developing world costs a fraction of what it does to resettle a refugee in Europe. In Afghanistan, a sustainable, life-changing job costs Hand in Hand £300 to create. In Germany, feeding, housing and providing language classes to a single refugee costs £8,800 per year.

Hand in Hand Afghanistan has helped create 26,739 businesses and 31,397 jobs, transforming the lives of some 197,000 people – most of them children. And we’re only getting started. In light of the ongoing refugee crisis, we are committed to expanding our operations in Afghanistan.

While Hand in Hand Zimbabwe’s principle motive is to alleviate poverty, jobs also improve security and stability in the regions where we work. This is particularly true in areas that have recently suffered some form of violence. Studies suggest persistent unemployment makes individuals significantly more susceptible to rebel recruitment, as they perceive there to be no non-violent means of earning a living. In a global survey conducted by the World Bank in 2011, 39.5 percent of the members of rebel groups that were interviewed claimed unemployment and idleness were their principle motivations for joining.

By the numbers


World Bank World Development Report, 2011

39.5% of the members of rebel groups interviewed claimed unemployment and idleness were their principle motivation for joining

Infographic: Members trained: 51,956 Our Self-Help Group members save together, train together and start businesses together

World Bank World Development Report, 2011

70% of Afghans think unemployment is a major factor driving the current conflict


African Development Bank Group: Youth Unemployment and Political Instability in Selected Developing Countries

When 15- to 24-year-olds make up more than 35% of the adult population, the risk of armed conflict is 150% higher than in countries with older populations


The Challenge

The greatest security related challenge in the regions where we work is that posed by youth unemployment. Even in countries experiencing economic growth, the number of youth entering the labour force is far greater than the number of new job opportunities being created each year. A 2013 report by the African Development Bank found that developing countries with large numbers of unemployed young people are considerably more likely to suffer some form of civil violence than those with lower levels of youth unemployment. A lack of jobs may leave young people feeling as if they have no choice but to join a rebellion as a means of generating an income. Conversely, those that are able to find employment become more invested in political stability and face a greater opportunity cost from joining a rebellion.

Of all the countries where Hand in Hand works, Afghanistan has experienced the most severe civil conflict in recent ­­­­­­times. Beset by political instability and vast tracts of mountainous terrain, the country is incredibly difficult to police, providing a fertile ground for rebel groups to recruit young people. In a recent survey, 7% of Afghans said a lack of jobs was the principle reason they may support the goals of rebel groups in their region. Meanwhile, in another survey, 70% said unemployment and poverty were major factors driving the current conflict.

Youth unemployment in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, 15- to 24-year-olds constitute 40 percent of the total population, increasing the risk of armed conflict in the country by 150% in comparison to countries with flatter age structures. Through our program in Afghanistan, Hand in Hand is able to help tackle the issue of unemployment, thereby reducing the appeal of joining a rebel group and helping to facilitate a more politically stable environment.

Beyond 2014

jobs and security Afghanistan

The threat of rising unemployment has been heightened by the withdrawal of foreign troops at the end of 2014. Not only has their withdrawal reduced the security assurances in the region, it has also resulted in a significant loss of jobs as those working for foreign security and civilian organizations, as well as Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), are laid off. Estimates of the number of jobs at risk range from 50,000 to 360,000 when all those employed by service providers and other contractors are taken into account.

Afghanistan’s insecurity, mountainous terrain and political instability make it the most challenging location in which we work, and, as a result, the one that needs our commitment the most. So far, we’ve trained more than 22,000 Self-Help Group members and created almost 8,500 jobs in the country. And we’re just getting started.

Find out about our approach

Group savings and skills training aren’t rare. Nor, for that matter, is microfinance. But where other organizations focus on or two of these elements, Hand in Hand combines all three – then adds a fourth by connecting entrepreneurs to larger markets.

Find out more