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IRAQ: Growing unemployment threatens stability, UN says

BAGHDAD, 18 February 2009 (IRIN) - Iraq’s double-digit unemployment rate, especially among young men, could undermine long-term security and social stability, a UN report states.

Iraq’s unemployment rate stands at 18 percent while an additional 10 percent of the labour force is part-time, but keen to work longer hours, the report found.

Unemployment is concentrated among young men, with 28 percent between 15 and 29 years of age unemployed, while only 17 percent of women have jobs, a low rate compared with neighbouring countries.

“Iraq’s growing jobless population is a socio-economic challenge for a country in transition. This unemployed or disenchanted pool of young men and women is critical to Iraq’s future socio-economic health,” it said.

"Data shows that women without a university education are more likely to be unemployed or not seeking a job. Only 30 percent of working-age women with a secondary education participate in the labour force and this figure drops to 10 percent for those with just a primary education."

It also warned that most of the 450,000 Iraqis entering the job market in 2009 would not find work as the private sector was “ill-equipped".

The report, Iraq Labor Force Analysis, issued on 15 February, was compiled by the UN’s Information Analysis Unit and 11 NGOs. It is the first such report since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

Joblessness fuels insurgency

Experts say joblessness has plagued Iraq since 2003 and helped to fuel the insurgency, since idle young men can be lured into the ranks of militant groups. The same instability is hampering rebuilding efforts and economic growth that could generate more jobs, they say.

Three years after earning his electrical engineering degree, 28-year-old Qassim Khalil said his years of study were "a big mistake" and that he should have dropped out long ago to get a menial job.

"I was dreaming about becoming either a government employee or working in the private sector, but these were only dreams," he said.

"I kept knocking on all the doors for work but in vain. To get a government job one should be backed by politicians and their parties while the private sector wants someone with at least five years of experience," Khalil added.

Aqeel al-Kinani, a Baghdad-based economic specialist, blamed the post-war governments for not compiling a nationwide employment strategy as they were focusing only on security issues.

"They forgot that unemployment was the main reason behind the deteriorating security situation they were trying to fix," Al-Kinani, who prepares economic studies for governmental and non-governmental bodies, told IRIN.

"There should have been a nationwide strategy for that sensitive period after the 2003 invasion but there was an absence of such a strategy as all the post-war governments were preoccupied with fighting insurgents despite some humble initiatives here and there with almost no effective results."

sm/ar/mw

Theme (s): Early Warning, Economy,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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