The Ethiopian government has its own political and economic agenda to facilitate, regularise, and if possible formalise migration to different countries, particularly the Middle East. According to some sources, Ethiopia, a country with a population of around 110 million, has over 14 million unemployed people. It also suffers from shortages of foreign currency. Increasing migration to the Middle East would alleviate both of these problems. Citizens would get jobs, they would channel foreign currency back to their family, and at the end of the day the country would benefit.
Many Ethiopians already aspire to go to the Gulf and are heading in that direction. In 2018 and again in 2019 we saw a ridiculously high number of Ethiopians arriving in Yemen. The Ethiopian government wants to create a migration regulatory framework for the Middle East to give this movement more structure. As part of this it recently created a new policy to license migration facilitators. Over 400 agencies have received their licenses so far. The government has also started developing a training infrastructure for domestic workers and drivers, the two main sectors occupied by Ethiopians in Gulf countries.
The government is also changing its approach regarding the people who have come to Ethiopia as refugees. One way they’re doing this is through the Ethiopian Jobs Compact, which reserves a portion of the jobs it seeks to create for refugee workers. Seen from a refugee’s perspective the government’s new approach is very positive. I just got back from a refugee camp in northern Ethiopia and you can already see its impact. Refugees have been issued with ID cards, for instance, which will allow them to move around more freely and even access banks. They also got access to telecommunications system, which they didn’t have before. The refugees are now waiting for further steps to happen like the issuance of work permits or driving licenses. Both of these would make it far easier for them to get jobs.
How many ultimately get jobs, however, remains an open question. How many refugees can the Ethiopian labour market absorb when millions of citizens are also unemployed? Gambella, one of the states within Ethiopia, has more refugees in it than citizens. How can all those refugees possibly integrate? The job market has problems, there is a shortage of land for those who want to go into agriculture, etc. It’s not an easy situation.