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.
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.