By Shwan Zulal.
How will I support myself in my old age? People ask this question all around the world. One Kurdish writer argues that a universal pension scheme could be a catalyst for a more dynamic private sector and economic growth in Iraq.
No matter where they live, one of the questions in the back of many people’s minds is: how will I support myself and my family when I am no longer able to work? Whether that is because of old age or illness, it’s a common concern.
In Iraq and in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, people ask the same question. And given the recent unstable history of the country, people are understandably anxious about the future.
Most Iraqi businesses in the private sector do not have any kind of pension scheme. And while there are various benefit programmes, these tend to be vague and certainly don’t instil any sense of security. Which is why this fear has driven many people to do whatever it takes to become eligible for the generous government pension schemes for state employees.
On average, working in the private sector will see employees paid higher salaries but often there are more demands are made on staff members in this sphere, where productivity is measured more closely. But a government employee who retires after an average of 20 years in a state job may get paid more in the long run.
Additionally every year, scores of graduates enter the Iraqi job market and they most often expect to be employed by the government. The system dates back to Iraq under Saddam Hussein when there were few other employers than the government. Speak to any young person in Iraq and you’ll hear the same message: why should I do a hard day’s work when I can get a low level, public sector job and do as little as possible for a guaranteed salary and a pension? Public servants also get other perks – they may qualify for housing grants and interest free loans from the government, including loans that allow them to get married.