IKEA sets up Syrian refugee production centres

Furniture giant IKEA is to employ refugees at production centres in Jordan this summer as part of a long-term plan to create employment for 200,000 disadvantaged people around the world through social entrepreneurship programmes.

The initiative, which should be operational by August, will employ a mixture of Syrian refugees and Jordanians in the production of woven products including rugs, cushions and bedspreads.

The Swedish firm is partnering with the Jordan River Foundation, a non-governmental organisation established by Jordan’s Queen Rania, which will manage the facilities and employ 100 people to start with, rising to 400 people within two years.

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Half will be refugees and half local workers.

The move is part of an ambitious plan by IKEA, which directly or indirectly currently employs around a million people, to eventually give jobs to an additional 200,000 people through similar initiatives around the world.

“Two-hundred thousand is our long-term ambition,” said Jesper Brodin, IKEA’s head of range and supply. “It may take 10-15 years. We want these people to be our future suppliers.”

IKEA will work with social entrepreneurs – organisations that use business techniques to tackle social problems, as opposed to aid-based approaches –to provide employment while ensuring standards for both working conditions and production quality are met.

“We offer a business model, learning opportunities, simple skills around how to plan production and set yourself up for export,” said Brodin. “Those things are part of the package.”

The project follows a range of similar social entrepreneur-led projects in disadvantaged communities around the world, which already employ 2,000 people. Initiatives already up and running include projects with female entrepreneurs in India and a programme employing immigrant women in Sweden.

IKEA will send a team of designers to Jordan in the coming weeks to define the types of products that could be produced.

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