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Hardship Allowance

Purpose of hardship allowance

Most of the United Nations organizations’ work is done in the field and often in countries where living and working conditions are difficult. The hardship allowance aims to compensate staff for the difficult living conditions at these duty stations.

Hardship categories

Hardship categorization assesses the overall quality of life at a field duty station. In determining the degree of hardship, consideration is given to local conditions of safety and security, health care, education, housing, climate, isolation and the availability of the basic amenities of life that result in a less than acceptable standard of living for staff and their families. Duty stations are categorized on a scale of difficulty from A to E with A being the least difficult.

Review process

The hardship category of each duty station is reviewed a minimum of once every three years (each region: Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean is reviewed in one year of the three-year review cycle). In practice, however, many duty stations are reviewed more frequently as under established procedures, those e.g. with a difficult or volatile security situation must be looked at every year.

The review is carried out by a Working Group consisting of representatives of the secretariat of the International Civil Service Commission, organizations and staff and covers the following factors: health, security, climate, isolation, local conditions and housing.


Internationally recruited staff on an assignment of one year or more serving at duty stations in categories B to E will receive a hardship allowance.

The allowance is not payable to staff serving at H and A duty stations, these duty stations are outside the hardship scheme.

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