The Economic Situation for Individuals and Communities in Syria

Department For International Development

March 9
13:13 2020


This report records the literature that emerged through rapid search on the impact of the war economy on day-to-day life for Syrian citizens and the economic situation for individuals and communities. Academic literature on the war economy tended to focus on political implications rather than everyday lives. NGO and humanitarian literature has more of a focus on everyday lives but does not link directly to the broader economy or war economy. The war economy is illicit and informal so by its very nature is not discussed by Syrian inhabitants and details are not reported.

Section 14 reports on data limitations discussed in the literature identified during this helpdesk review. Some macro level economic data are outlined in section 3 to give some background on what communities are dealing with, the effects of vastly reduced gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and lower investment. Section 4 details the unemployment situation. Unemployment is high, and those who work do so with insufficient pay and in poor conditions. High inflation has reduced purchasing power which exacerbates poor living conditions. Literature on the war economy in Syria is outlined in section 5. Details of the impact on communities were not available within the scope of this report. An informal economy has emerged as business and trade networks have been destroyed (Section 6). Looting, kidnapping and smuggling have become important sources of income although this is less prominent now that the intensity of conflict has reduced. Access to resources has become politicised (Section 7). Information identified on the industrial, agricultural and public sectors are reported in Sections 8, 9 and 10 respectively. Wide-scale devastation of industrial units has been experienced and therefore with associated job losses. Factory owners are attempting to rebuild and express a need for tax exemptions, access to finance and skilled labour. Agriculture has become a larger proportion of the economy due to the vast reduction in the contribution of manufacturing. Problems in the agricultural sector include access to water, destruction of farmlands, shortage of inputs and transportation problems. Coping mechanisms (discussed in Section 11) include selling assets such as furniture, a resurgence of traditional professions, and selling humanitarian assets. Women and children who were not part of the workforce pre-war are looking for economic opportunities. Female headed-households are more common where husbands have been killed in the fighting and these households are increasingly vulnerable.

K4D helpdesk reports provide summaries of current research, evidence and lessons learned. This report was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development.


Bolton, L. (2020). The economic situation for individuals and communities in Syria. K4D Helpdesk Report 728. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.

The Economic Situation for Individuals and Communities in Syria

Published 31 January 2020

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