Feature: Young Iraqis struggle to find jobs amid continued chaos, conflicts-Xinhua

Feature: Young Iraqis struggle to find jobs amid continued chaos, conflicts

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2023-06-27 21:21:45

BAGHDAD, June 27 (Xinhua) -- When you walk down a crowded street in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, and talk with a well-dressed man, it's not surprising to find that he works for the Iraqi government or foreign oil giants. Iraq's own underdeveloped industrial system fails to provide enough jobs for locals and more than a third of Iraqi youths are out of work.

Every year, thousands of students graduate from universities across Iraq, searching for an opportunity in the labor market, yet the country's sluggish economy offers little hope.

Five years ago, Anas Mahmoud, 30, graduated from Agriculture College at Baghdad University, a prestigious university in Iraq. But the education he was so proud of didn't get him a good job. Mahmoud used to work as a waiter at a restaurant in the Mansour neighborhood in western Baghdad but was fired last month because the restaurant owner preferred a foreign worker with a lower salary.

"I used to take a monthly salary of 950,000 Iraqi dinars (about 655 U.S. dollars) for 12 hours of daily work, and I was fired after working for three years and replaced by a foreign worker with a salary of 400 dollars," Mahmoud told Xinhua in anger and dissatisfaction.

Iraq has been suffering from a severe unemployment problem since the U.S. invasion in 2003. The continued chaos and conflicts that swept the country in the past 20 years have not only hindered successive governments from properly addressing the problems of social security and economic development but also stunted the private sector that provides the most jobs.

The Iraqi Ministry of Planning said that the poverty rate in the country was 25 percent in 2022. For the past decade, official unemployment rates have seen a continuous rise in Iraq. In 2022, the national unemployment rate stood at 16.5 percent, while it was close to 36 percent among young people, according to the International Labour Organization.

Despite the job crisis, many Iraqi businessmen tend to hire foreigners from South Asian or African countries who are satisfied with lower wages rather than locals or university graduates who hold higher education degrees.

In addition to wages, there are other reasons for preferring foreign workers.

In the two decades since the Iraq War, social unrest and underinvestment in the vocational education system have led to a lack of skills or professionalism among the younger generation of Iraqis.

Saad al-Khattab, owner of the Yad al-Rajaa Company, which provides foreign and local workers, told Xinhua, "We must admit that Iraqi workers do not have experience in some jobs, and sometimes they are not good at dealing professionally with people who are looking for labor."

Corruption is seen as one of the main reasons for various social problems in Iraq, including the chronicle high-unemployment rate. Poverty, unemployment, and lack of public services drove tens of thousands of angry Iraqis into mass anti-government protests for months in 2019, demanding comprehensive reform to combat the corruption.

Nadhum al-Jubouri, an Iraqi political analyst, told Xinhua that Iraqi people are displeased with the governments since 2003 for failing to fight corruption and improve governance.

Iraq's underdeveloped local industrial system makes it difficult develop employment. Despite the promises made by Iraqi successive governments to address the job crisis, including increasing public sector jobs, it is usually to little avail. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 destroyed the conditions on which Iraq's local industry depends, according to al-Jubouri.

At the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in eastern Baghdad, Abbas Fadel, deputy director general of the Labor and Vocational Training Department, told Xinhua that to boost employment, the government issued instructions to oblige employers in public and private businesses to employ 50 percent of local workers and the same percentage for licensed foreign workers.

As part of its efforts to help local workers compete for job opportunities in the private sector, Fadel's department opened more than 38 training centers across Iraq to offer free training courses for available professions in the labor market.

He added that the ministry also provides loans to the best graduates who excel in these courses to set up projects.