Iraq's First national Labour Force Survey in a decade

Iraq's Ministry of Planning, the Central Statistical Organization (CSO), together with the International Labour Organization (ILO) have launched a national Labour Force Survey, the first of its kind to be conducted in Iraq in the last decade.

The survey presents estimates at the national, governorate, urban and rural levels and covers a broad array of indicators on the labour market and demographic characteristics of residents in Iraq.

The CSO and the Kurdistan Region Statistics Office (KRSO) conducted the Iraq Labour Force Survey in 2021, with technical and financial support by the ILO.

The main objective of the survey was to collect current data on the size and characteristics of the labour force, employment, unemployment and other labour market characteristics of the population, including working time, income from employment of employees at main jobs and informality of employment.

The survey was also designed to measure different components of labour underutilization, including time-related underemployment and potential labour force, and other forms of work, in particular, own-use production of goods and services, in line with the latest international standards adopted by the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians.

The findings of the survey were presented at an event in Baghdad on Tuesday (July 5), which was attended by the Minister of Planning Dr. Khaled Battal Al-Najem, and ILO Country Coordinator Maha Kattaa.

"The survey provides estimates at the national and governorate level and provides important indicators on the labour market and demographic characteristics of Iraq's residents," said Minister of Planning Dr. Khaled Battal Al-Najem. "The survey will pave the way for the quick identification of needs relating to the creation of employment for Iraq's citizens. It will also provide indicators that will help develop important long-term policies that address the needs of the labour market," Minister Al-Najem added.

"The findings show that 13 million women are in the age of the employment, yet only around one million are working. The findings also show that more than one-third of the youth population is not in education, nor in employment or training," said ILO Country Coordinator Maha Kattaa. "There is an urgent need to create more decent job opportunities that can attract women to the labour market, and attract youth towards the private sector and entrepreneurship, as the public sector cannot absorb the growing number of youth entering the labour market each year."

Main Findings

The Labour Force Survey, with a sample size of 16,400 households covering Iraqi and non-Iraqi households, presents estimates at the national and governorate level, covering Iraq's 18 governorates.

The survey was conducted in line with the latest international standards adopted by the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians.

The survey results reveal that the national labour force participation rate (LFPR) - the percentage of people who are active in the labour market, either employed or unemployed - stood at 39.5 per cent in 2021. According to the survey results, about 30.2 per cent of the total working age population were outside the labour force in 2021. The great majority of persons outside the labour force were female.

The female labour force participation rate was particularly low standing at 10.6 per cent in comparison to 68 per cent for males.

The data further show that the LFPR of young people (aged 15 to 24 years) was 26.5 per cent, and that of adults (aged 25 years and above) was 45.8 per cent.

The employment-to-population ratio - or the percentage of the working-age population that is currently employed - is often used as an indicator of the performance of the national economy in providing employment to its population. In Iraq, it stood at 33 per cent indicating that only about one-third of the working age population (15 years old and over) were employed in Iraq in 2021 The ratio is lower among women (7.6 per cent) compared to men (58 per cent), and lower for youth (17 per cent) than for adults (40.6 per cent).

The data show that the unemployment rate stood at 16.5 per cent, indicating that for every five employed persons there was roughly one unemployed person. The female unemployment rate (28.2 per cent) was about twice the male unemployment rate (14.7 per cent) and the youth unemployment rate (35.8 per cent) was more than three times that of the adult unemployment rate (11.2 per cent).

The survey presents results by geographical distribution, disaggregated by urban and rural, and by governorate. The data show that the labour force participation rate was higher in urban areas (40.3 per cent) than in rural areas (37.3 per cent). Similarly, the unemployment rate was higher in urban areas than in rural areas, standing at 17.6 per cent and 13.3 per cent respectively.

The survey measures informal employment, which is employment that is not covered or is insufficiently covered by formal arrangements and protections, and employment in the informal sector, which is employment in establishments that are not covered or insufficiently covered by formal arrangements. The results show that around 54.8 per cent of total employment was in the informal sector and the number of persons with informal jobs represented 66.6 per cent of total employment.

The results show that most employed persons usually worked between 30 and 59 hours per week at their jobs (61.1 per cent). The number of persons usually working short hours, that is less than 30 hours per week, was relatively low (20.5 per cent), but significantly higher among women (41.8 per cent) in comparison with men (17.7 per cent). At the other extreme of the distribution, the survey results show that some 17.9 per cent of employed persons usually worked long hours - more than 60 hours per week. The rate of those working long hours was much higher among men (19.8 per cent) than among women (3.1 per cent).

The survey finds that almost one-third of Iraq's extended labour force - the labour force and the potential labour force combined - was affected by some form of labour underutilization. The data reveals that the composite measure of labour underutilization, which combines unemployment, time-related underemployment and potential labour force, stood at 31 per cent. In general, labour underutilization affected women (49.5 per cent) much more than men (27.3 per cent), and youth (53.3 per cent) much more than adults (24 per cent).

The results show that women tend to be more concentrated in services (73.1 per cent) and agriculture (14.4 per cent) than men in the corresponding broad branches of economic activity (62.2 per cent and 7.7 per cent, respectively).

[Update: The original press release failed to provide a link to the actual survey; you can download it here.]

(Source: UN)

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