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From War to Work

There is no denying that conflict has far-reaching negative effects, including on employment. But the prevailing understanding of the relationship between conflict and employment does not fully recognize the complexity of this relationship – a shortcoming that undermines effective employment policies in fragile states.

OXFORD – There is no denying that conflict has far-reaching negative effects, including on employment. But the prevailing understanding of the relationship between conflict and employment does not fully recognize the complexity of this relationship – a shortcoming that undermines effective employment policies in fragile states.

The conventional wisdom is that conflict destroys jobs. Moreover, because unemployment can spur more conflict, as unemployed young people find validation and economic rewards in violent movements, job creation should be a central part of post-conflict policy. But, while this certainly sounds logical, these assumptions, as I detailed in a 2015 paper, are not necessarily entirely accurate.

The first assumption – that violent conflicts destroy jobs – ignores the fact that every conflict is unique. Some, like the 2008-2009 Sri Lankan civil war, are concentrated in a relatively small area, leaving much of the country – and thus the economy – unaffected.

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