What Can Rohingya Refugees Teach Us About the Meaning of Work?

What Can Rohingya Refugees Teach Us About the Meaning of Work?

[MUSIC PLAYING] This is a massive
humanitarian crisis, massive. This is 1 million Rohingya. This is a genocide. The genocide can
be cast or narrated as one of ethnic and
religious differences. But I think there’s a
much more nuanced way to see it, which is, those
were ethnic and religious differences that
were capitalized on in a very particular
economic context, in a very particular political
context, in which businesses and investment by businesses
played a key role. They’ve just gone from being,
essentially, fully employed, because they were subsistence
farmers or business people, to now
having no job at all, and being entirely dependent
on aid agencies for survival. And so it seemed to me that
the lack of work that they had, the cost of that was far more
than just the lack of money. The motivating idea
behind this study was to capture the psychosocial
benefits of employment, and then on top of
that, to understand how those psychosocial benefits
may be mediated by your past– so in this case, the trauma that
refugees experienced– and then also your future, the sort of
deep, existential uncertainty people have about their future. Our basic design is very simple. It’s simply to randomly assign
one group a cash treatment, which means, at
the end of a month, you get this amount of money. And in the other group,
in one month, you get that same amount of money,
but conditional on working 12 days within the month. And then to get at these two
ideas of trauma and past trauma and future uncertainty, we
can use your past exposure to violence. It’s effectively random, to
see how, if you had, by chance, lost everybody in your family,
do you respond more or less, in terms of your
psychosocial well-being, to getting the work treatment. Now, we either give
people who are working a very concrete schedule
for their month, where they know exactly
when they’re working, which hours, which days. Or we say, we’re going to
need you to work this much, but we don’t know when. We’ll call you on
the morning of. And so we use that
variation to see if changing near-future
uncertainty can also increase, perhaps, the
psychosocial benefits of work. The three important
takeaways are, we find that the work does
decrease rates of depression. We find it increases
sociability. And we find that
workers who experienced the loss of a family
member benefit more from the work than others. Certainly, there’s
a lot of literature that does suggest that work
means much more than just the cash. It gives you a
sense of identity, of purpose, a larger goal. I think what we’re
excited about is, again, trying to understand the
mediation of these effects by your past
experiences, and also how you conceive of the future. Business leaders
should recognize and be very careful
about tracing where their money is going,
where their dollars are going. Because often, if they’re
going into Myanmar, they’re going into businesses
that the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar military, has a hand on. The Rohingya, this migration
crisis is, in many ways, an embodiment of a
much larger problem that we will experience
only in greater scale over the next many years. With climate change, we
predict that the number of forcibly displaced migrants
will eventually, by 2050, go to 1 billion. And they will affect you. They will affect me. They may be you and me. So we could leave it
up to governments, or we could, as members
of a business community, think about how we can
integrate these individuals.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell


  1. Wow this very famous Havard Business School Channel is having difficult time to delete my Perspective from Non-muslim point of view. Typical Hypocrite!

  2. That sounds good indeed yet i'd like to address the fact as i see it but i will begin with a question What's the point of what we can learn from the Rohingya when they can't have the right to live in the first place ? those people need a Real solution , even if we look at it from a capitalistic perspective in reference to Adam Smith the Rohingya people need an effective solution , i mean i truly appreciate all those who are trying to help from the heart not for the public image and five minutes of fame , someone has to be held accountable in the International Court Of Justice for this crime against Humanity and that's what i know.

  3. Rohingas are destroying important
    tourism spot of Bangladesh.They are not interested in leaving this country.We can't learn anything from them.

  4. Bangladesh govt. restricts Rohingya refugees from working or having a job. There are refugees hosted in other countries in the world, but they (for example Turkey hosting Syrian refugees, Jordan hosting Palestinian refugees) do not restrict refugees from working. Bangladesh govt do not acknowledge them as refugees, instead, calls them Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN). By not acknowledging their refugee status, Rohingyas are denied the rights of refugees specified by the United Nations. Rohingya refugees suffered much and they should be given refugee status in Bangladesh.

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