Tag Archive | "Unemployment"

Unemployment Increases in Kurdistan Region

By John Lee.

BasNews reports that the unemployment rate in Kurdistan has risen from 7 percent at the end of 2013 to 10 percent currently. The number unemployed is nearly 100,ooo, of which 52 percent are men.

The increase has been blamed on the general economic situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, and on the sanctions that Baghdad has put on the region.

The Statistics Director in Sulaimaniyah, Mahmud Osman, believes that the increase in unemployment is mainly due to the lack of job opportunities for university graduates, and the lack of availability of loans to youths.

According to the data of the Ministry of Planning, in the first six months in 2013, the unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent.

Meanwhile, Iraqi social affairs Minister Naser Ruba’i revealed that 46 percent of Iraqi citizens are jobless.

According to data obtained by BasNews, there are approximately 3000 contractor projects, 70 percent of which have come to a halt due the recent violence in northern Iraq.

“In respect of the current economic crisis and IS attacks, markets and projects have stopped. The government must have a serious plan in order to survive the current situation that Kurdistan is going through”, said Yassin Mahmud, spokesperson for Kurdistan Investment Union.

According to Investment Unions official, 14 billion dollars [16.3 trillion Iraqi dinars] was invested in the region in 2013, but this has fallen to only 3 billion dollars [3.5 trillion Iraqi dinars] in the first 8 months of this year.

(Source: BasNews)

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Poverty and Unemployment Not Being Addressed

By Layth Mahdi, Agricultural Advisor. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Poverty and Unemployment Not Being Addressed in the Coming Iraqi Elections

Iraq’s poverty and unemployment is increasing every year despite the Government’s efforts to implement programs to lower it. The United Nations and other International Organizations have published that more than 23% of Iraq’s population lives below the poverty line.

While 23% is the official figure, the real number exceeds 35% (12 million). The Iraqi people have endured a lot of hardship and suffering during the last four decades of war, in addition to crippling sanctions. The devastating living conditions have resulted in the brain drain of the intellectual workforce.

The remaining officials in charge of the redevelopment programs lack vital experience, such as project management, needed to rebuild the country back to its glory. It is essential that foreign agencies enter Iraq in order to educate these officials towards good governance, which will address the main barrier to success: poverty and unemployment.

The Ministry of Planning (MoP) has implemented several programs aimed to decrease poverty in Iraq. In 2010, it started a five year program (2010-14) in hopes to bring the poverty level down to 10%. However; the MoP has admitted that its plans have failed to achieve their objectives. During my consultancy years with Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) we worked to assist provincial and local governments to govern effectively and deliver essential services, as part of the plan for a “New Way Forward” in Iraq.

This new plan introduced a unique Provincial Development Strategy (PDS) for each province from 2007-2011. Unfortunately, these strategies were never implemented by any Provincial Council or Governor due to a lack of trust and understanding of the PDS.

Posted in Agriculture, Blog, Employment, PoliticsComments (1)

Iraqi Unemployment Falls to 16%

Iraq’s Minister for Planning and Development Cooperation, Ali Yusuf Al Shukri, has announced unemployment in Iraq of about 16%, with a poverty rate of about 11%, according to Alsumaria TV.

“Poverty and unemployment rates are decreasing in Iraq after Iraqi GDP improved and investment in constructions and services projects increased,” Shukri told the news agency, stressing that unemployment decrease resulted from creating new job opportunities.

He said the Planning Ministry is also preparing a database of companies that are falling behind in existing service and construction projects, and these companies and their directors will be barred from future projects.

(Source: Alsumaria TV)

Posted in Construction & EngineeringComments (1)

Brain Drain with No Gain?

By T. Keyzom Ngodup, co-founder at Ideas sYnergy.  Ideas sYnergy is Iraq’s first multiple bottom line advisory company committed to inclusive economic and social development through market-based solutions that help build and scale youth-driven innovative ideas for social change.


An Economist report rightly pointed out that when people in the developed countries worry about migration, they tend to think of low paid incomers who compete for jobs as construction workers, dishwashers, or farmhands. When people in developing countries worry about migration, they are usually concerned at the prospect of their best and brightest decamping to Silicon Valley or to hospitals and universities in the developed world. Indeed, of the 22 Iraqis listed in Arabian Business’ 500 most influential Arabs, only nine are based in Iraq, all in Baghdad.

This ‘brain drain’ has long bothered policymakers in poor countries. They fear it hurts their economies, depriving them of much-needed skilled workers who could have taught at their universities, worked in their hospitals and come up with clever new products for their factories to make. Alternatively, several economists reckon that the brain-drain hypothesis fails to account for the effects of remittances (see table for the relatively ‘low’ Iraq remittance volume albiet important to note that ‘traditional’ money transfer services are far and few between in Iraq and can often terminate service, for example the recent termination of Iraq-US transfer), for the beneficial effects of returning migrants, and for the possibility that being able to migrate to greener pastures induces people to get more education. Some argue that once these factors are taken into account, an exodus of highly skilled people could turn out to be a net benefit to the countries they leave.


Iraq Remittances (Source: WDI)






Received/Inward  (USD)






Outward (USD)







While most migrants in other countries are unemployed youth, in Iraq, migrants had been generally gainfully employed professionals in the country before seeking global opportunities with a chance to travel hassle-free through a non-Iraqi passport. Speaking to a number of Iraqi professionals who immigrated to the United States after 2003, one finds that most of them are employed in low-paid blue collar jobs, with plans to return to Iraq in the near future, contingent on improvements in security.

Late senator Ted Kennedy said at the time, “America has a fundamental obligation to assist Iraqis whose lives are in danger.” But the special visa programme, called the SIV, under the 2008 Refugee Crisis Act, has stalled, partly due to crippling bureaucratic process, lack of resources and partly due to news such as Iraqi men in Kentucky, USA charged with supporting extremists. Following the withdrawal of American troops in December 2011, the SIV programme is likely to erect new hurdles as the Pentagon closed its last few military bases in Iraq.

However our experience tell us that Iraqis are better off pursuing higher studies abroad and applying themselves in Iraq, where potential opportunities to start new businesses and non-existent services for the population is tremendous. Much will depend upon how the government of Iraq makes Iraq an attractive destination for aspiring Iraqi returnees.


By T. Keyzom Ngodup, co-founder at Ideas sYnergy.  Ideas sYnergy is Iraq’s first multiple bottom line advisory company committed to inclusive economic and social development through market-based solutions that help build and scale youth-driven innovative ideas for social change.

Posted in Banking & Finance, Employment, Keyzom Ngodup, PoliticsComments Off

Unemployment “Hits One Million”

Unemployment in Iraq has reached one million, according to a report from AKnews.

Dara Hasan, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, told the agency:

We are working on a plan to bring the level of unemployment down. There are 13 new laws ready to be issued which will protect and stabilized employees’ rights in both private and public sector.

He added: “Due to a high level of unemployment in Iraq the government will recruit more than 150,000 people. But we do not relay solely on government job creation but also the private sector.

Hassan believes small and medium sized loans for individuals and companies will somehow boost employment in the private sector however he provided AKnews with no data to substantiate this or any details on the size of the loans.

The report seems to contradict previous reports that the official unemployment rate was running at around 15%. The CIA’s 2009 figures show a labour force of 8.5 million; 15% of this would be about 1.3 million.

(Source: AKnews)

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Iraq’s Visa Madness

Visa problems for foreign workers in Iraq continue to make the headlines.

Last week we reported on the difficulties caused by a decision to channel visa applications through the office of the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki; now we hear that the Basra Investment Commission has imposed its own restrictions, with the intention of reducing unemployment.

While the restrictions do not appear to be limited to specific sectors or levels of employment, the main game in town is clearly oil and gas, and in this area there are many foreign workers whose expertise is required in Iraq.

But when we say ‘many foreign workers’, that is relative – in the context of an unemployment rate between 15% and 39% (depending on whose figures you choose to believe), the number of foreign experts who need to enter Iraq is trivial. While the energy sector accounts for as much as 90% of Iraq’s GDP, it employs only about 1% of the workforce, and the number of non-Iraqi experts required would be a very small fraction of this 1%.

It’s also worth noting that native Iraqi oil workers are the cheapest in the world, so companies would be inclined to employ them first, if they have the required skills.

If Iraq is to thrive, it must allow companies to bring in the talent they need to development the country’s biggest asset.

Your business in Iraq can benefit from the knowledge and experience of both Upper Quartile and AAIB. For more information please contact Gavin Jones or Adrian Shaw.

Posted in Blog, Construction & Engineering, Employment, Industry & Trade, Oil & GasComments (2)

Basra Restricts Foreign Workers

The head of the Basra Investment Commission said on Wednesday that it has placed strict controls on the entry of foreign workers to the province.

Haidar Ali Fadel told AKnews that the commission is restricting the numbers of foreign workers in the province in order to prioritize local manpower, and that formal approval has not been granted to investors to bring in foreign workers for two years now.

“The commission is responsible in one way or another for addressing the issue of unemployment,” he said, “particularly as unemployment has become a major concern for Iraqis in all provinces across the country”.

“90% of the manpower needed to implement foreign investment projects is available in the country,” Fadel continued, “Iraq possesses experienced workers on all levels.”

According to World Bank estimates, unemployment in Iraq has risen to around 39% over the past two years, a figure the Iraqi government’s Central Bureau of Statistics refutes, placing the figure at only 15%.

(Source: AKnews)

Posted in Construction & Engineering, Employment, Oil & GasComments Off

Unrest in Iraq – the Risk of Contagion

With unrest in several Arab cities, many in the region are worried about the risk of contagion. The latest flashpoints are Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan and Algeria; but is Iraq vulnerable as well? The people certainly have a lot to complain about.


The heat and increased use of air conditioning put a major strain on the national grid last summer. Blackouts became increasingly common and hours with constant electricity supply became less frequent. For those who could not afford the exorbitant fees of private generators there were intense periods of difficulty, with high temperatures and no fans or refrigeration. Conditions were harsh enough to prompt unrest in several cities in the south of the country. In Basrah two protesters were killed when the police opened fire on a crowd in an attempt to control it.

Electricity projects are currently underway around the country but many are not likely to be completed for several more years. Shortages are therefore likely to persist. With Ramadan taking place in the summer in 2011, tensions are likely to be particularly high. Electricity usage increases during the religious period, particularly if it falls during warmer months, and power shortages can be more emotive during the month-long event than at other times of the year.


Water supply also remains a major issue, with varying service quality in different parts of the country. Infrastructure is being improved in Baghdad but many outlining towns and rural areas remain without a reliable supply. In agricultural areas this has also led to demonstrations in the past. Shortages in provinces like Diyala have provoked local farmers into protesting against what they perceive as excessive usage of water further upriver – crucially, in areas predominantly inhabited by Kurdish Iraqis. Over-usage in the north and in Iraq’s neighbouring countries may not only harm yields later in the summer, it could even lead to inter-communal tensions between Kurds and Arabs in the mixed districts of northern Iraq.


Another driver of current unrest in the Middle East has been the rising cost of living. Good agricultural performance in Iraq would help restrict domestic inflation in 2011, but difficult logistics and underdeveloped port facilities continue to push up the price of imported goods. This is something that affects all Iraqis, regardless of sector, location and community, and while it has not prompted any major demonstrations in the country so far, it will continue to put pressure on ordinary citizens and add to public frustrations.


Inflation woes are made all the worse by the high unemployment rate in the country. With a battered economy the job market remains poor and those of working age face a grim outlook when searching for employment. However, foreign firms will play an important role in addressing the underutilisation of the Iraqi workforce. Investment in key sectors and the employment of national staff will not only provide foreign companies with access to an important pool of workers, it will help cement a firm’s reputation in the emerging market and tackle a major source of discontentment in the country. As such, current joblessness is a crisis, but it could be viewed as an opportunity.


In Baghdad a regular source of complaint is that of travel difficulty. Checkpoints, congestion and route closures clog the daily lives of the city’s traders and commuters. However, the removal of checkpoints and opening of roads makes it easier for terrorists, militants and criminals to move around the city. The authorities therefore face a delicate trade-off when considering their priorities. Frustrated drivers may be a better problem to face than a rise in violence in the city.


Although security conditions have gradually improved over recent years Iraqis continue to die on a daily basis. A suicide bombing against a Shi’ah funeral in the northern Baghdad district of Shu’lah killed dozens and prompted a sporadic protest by local residents on 27 January. Many are frustrated with the failure of the security forces to provide them with protection and further attacks may provoke a backlash against the police, military and government for their perceived failure at protecting the people.

One point to note in Iraq which sets it apart from North Africa is the fact that so many people have died in recent years. Unlike in Tunisia where the death of a market trader in December sparked the beginning of an uprising, the death of Iraqis is less emotive. To put it bluntly, it happens all the time. It is not that an Iraqi life is worth less than a Tunisian one, but the Iraqi public have grown more used to regular carnage. Indeed, this desensitisation, which affects an entire population may be one of the most tragic legacies of Middle Eastern turmoil over the past decade. The aftermath will almost certainly outlive the various authoritarian regimes still clinging to power in the region.


Seeking to distance himself from comparison to such regimes, prime minister Nuri al-Maliki has pledged to cut his salary in half in response to the latest regional unrest. Evidently the risk of Iraq becoming one of the ‘dominoes’ has not been lost on him, but his pledge has touched on an issue of particular embitterment amongst the Iraqi electorate. Many despair at the country’s high rate of unemployment, particularly when well-paid politicians take eight months to form a government. This delay alone hampered foreign investor confidence and arguably had more of an inhibiting effect on the jobs market than persistent terrorist attacks in the country. The fact that Iraqis had the right to elect these politicians to deliberate without conclusion for months does little to quell their animosity.

Even though Iraq may increasingly be viewed as a stable democratic state in the Middle East, the new regime should not consider itself infallible in the face of unrest in other cities in the region. Unless the Iraqi government can oversee the rapid expansion of services and development of national infrastructure it is likely that the coming year will see more protests in the country. What is perhaps important to note from the perspective of would-be foreign investors is that you will form a major part of the solution to Iraq’s current difficulties. The above outlook should not be taken as grounds for alarm. Instead, it should be taken as a call to action by those seeking to capitalise on Iraq’s many opportunities, whilst providing employment, development and opportunities for the Iraqi public.

AKE ltd

John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE Group, a British private security firm working in Iraq from before 2003. Further details on the company can be found at www.akegroup.com/iraq

You can obtain a free trial of AKE’s intelligence reports here http://tinyurl.com/245f9rm

You can also follow John Drake on twitter at www.twitter.com/johnfdrake

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