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Syrians at Work: Essays on Labor Markets in Syria and Host Countries


Since the start of the civil war, Syria has transformed into one of the most significant immigrant sending countries, both in absolute terms and when expressed as a share of the population. The Syrian exodus has had immense impacts on the Syrian economy and societies and has also affected neighboring countries in the Middle East region, as well as the European region in the course of the migrant crisis.

This project contributes to the economic and demographic literature on migration and labor markets with insights on how conditions within the sending country determine immigrant self-selection and labor market assimilation in the host country. The thesis also examines the determinants of female labor market participation within the sending country, and how attitudes to women’s market participation are transmitted to the host country and affect the labor market assimilation of immigrant women. Furthermore, the thesis examines the long-term assimilation of immigrants drawn from the Middle East region using previous migration episodes, which provides insight into historical processes that anticipate current and future trends in mobility between developing regions and Europe.

The project makes use of a variety of data sources, including census data from Syria, the USA, and Sweden, as well as survey data from Syria and neighboring countries in the Middle East. The project is undertaken as a Doctoral thesis in Economic History at the Department of Economic History at Lund University, with the supervision of Dr. Martin Dribe and Dr. Anna Tegunimataka.


  • Investigate the determinants of female labor market participation in the Middle East context and the reasons for the low and stagnant participation rates.
  • Investigate the patterns of self-selection of immigrants from Syria following the civil war, with a focus on forced displacement to neighboring countries and the decision of onward migration.
  • Investigate the labor market assimilation of Syrian immigrants in Sweden.
  • Investigate the labor market assimilation of Syrian-Lebanese and other Ottoman immigrants in the USA in the early 20th century.

Research Team

Rami Zalfou, Doctoral Student at the Department of Economic History, affiliated with CMES and the Center for Economic Demography (Lund University)

rami [dot] zalfou [at] ekh [dot] lu [dot] se (rami[dot]zalfou[at]ekh[dot]lu[dot]se)