RUB Research School

Associate Doctoral Candidate Salam Alhaj Hasan

Institute of Development Research and Development Policy (IFHV)

Refugee economies: The case of Syrian refugees in Jordan

In my PhD research, I focus on how Syrian refugees in Jordan cope with displacement economically.
Since 2011, more than 5.5 million Syrians have crossed international borders to flee their homes (UNHCR, 2018). They reside mainly in five neighboring countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt). Displacement poses challenges on host countries and on refugees. With increasingly longer periods of displacement, aid funding is decreasing. The regional refugee and resilience plan reports lower percentages of funding received each year. In 2017, the plan received ($2.45 billion) 53% of its appeal compared to 71% in 2013. In addition, most hosting countries grant no legal status to refugees and consider them “guests” limiting their rights of work and movement. Refugees, hence, struggle to secure basic needs. According to a UNICEF assessment, more than 85% of Syrian refugee children live in poverty in Jordan. Despite such restrictions, refugees do have agency and find strategies to generate income. More than 90% of them live out-side camps. While this lowers the chances they receive aid, it might increase the chances they find jobs. Regulations and aid differ between camps and out-side camps. Because of this difference in institutional settings, I chose Jordan as my case study. The country hosts more than 658,716 registered Syrian refugees. In addition, it has established three official camps unlike Lebanon where camps are not allowed.
My research investigates the dynamics of refugee economies. I examine how refugees allocate their resources within the institutional context in Jordan. My theoretical framework suggests that the main factors influencing the economic behaviour of refugees include: regulations pertaining to work and movement, international aid, and other factors relating to the social and human capital of refugees. I hypothesize about the channels of influence using microeconomic theory and different income and labour functions. The empirical part of my research tests these hypotheses and feeds back to my theoretical framework. For example, using my data, I test if humanitarian assistance is encouraging individuals to opt for informal work.
By observing already emerging market-based activities, and quantifying effects of different institutional settings on income and labour, I can provide an economic perspective on the dynamics of these emerging economies. Such a perspective is lacking in the literature. Very few empirical studies tackle the issues of refugee economies; fewer still deal with this issue in the context of the Middle East. My research aims to fill this gap, contribute to the knowledge on the different effects that alternative institutional approaches will bring about for refugees livelihoods and will provide insights into the effectiveness of related policies put in place by host countries and international organisations.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Löwenstein

About Salam Alhaj Hasan

  • Forced migration studies
  • Development economics
  • Alternative development theories
  • Conflict studies

Salam started her PhD studies at the Institute of development research and development policy (IEE) in October 2015. Born and raised in Aleppo, she studied Economics believing Economics could be the key to understanding and later contributing to social change. Prior to coming to Germany on a scholarship, she taught and worked at the University of Aleppo, Syria. She holds a master’s degree in Economics from the university of Freiburg. Her Master thesis held the title „ The effects of microfinance on the social and economic status of women“. She is currently conducting her field research on the topic of refugees’ economies focusing on the case of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

  • Scholarship for PhD studies from DAAD, Germany.
  • Scholarship for Master studies from University of Aleppo, Syria.
  • Four years winner of “Al-Basel award for scientific research”, Syria.
  • Researcher with the UNDP, Syria.
  • Teaching at the university of Aleppo.
  • Research assistant at the university of Freiburg.

McAteer, B., Alhaj Hasan, S., & Wanyonyi, J. (2023). A long and winding road of referrals: investigating the relationship between healthcare and integration for Nairobi's urban displaced. Frontiers in Human Dynamics, 5. doi:10.3389/fhumd.2023.1287458 (Available at

Dajani, D., Garcia Amado, P., Hasan, S. and Betawi, Y. (2023). A decade on: improving outcomes for Syrian refugees in Jordan. IIED, London. (Available at

Alhaj Hasan, Salam (2020) Work and Education Outcomes of Syrian Refugees in Jordan: Differences between Zaatari camp and Amman, in: Trialog 140-141, Vol. 1-2/2022: Cities and Displacement, pp. 38-43. 

Volunteer work with Syrians

  • IMP business club, Freiburg
  • Associate member of Al-Jumhuriya Collective, Berlin
  • Joint German-Arab program, IEE, RUB, Bochum
  • Associate member of Sylff Mikrokolleg on Forced Migration, RUB, Bochum


Participation an the PDUW  workshop,  27-30 March 2023, Nairobi, Kenya

Presentation on the empirical findings of the project: protracted displacement in an urban world (PDUW). I joined remotely and presented on the qualitative findings of the project in Jordan. 


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