Winners, losers in Iraq's job market

Nearly a year after the invasion, the real standard of living for many in Iraq remains unclear.

    Markets have become busier since sanctions were lifted has spoken to several citizens in Baghdad, and it is clear that, while there is a problem of unemployment, some Iraqis have benefited from the new situation and are enjoying a much higher income than they did during the 13 years of UN sanctions which came to an end in 2003.

    "Iraqis who worked for ministries other than defence and information, and were not members of the Baath party, managed to keep their posts," says Fawzi Farman, an Iraqi analyst in Baghdad.

    "But those who were in ministries disbanded by Iraq's US civil governor Paul Bremer are still unemployed."

    Off air

    The senior manager in charge of presenters, Abbas Majid, at the now defunct Baghdad TV, told that 6000 employees of the former Iraqi ministry of information had been sitting at home since last April.

    "I think that the decision to disband the ministries of information and defence was taken even before the fall of Baghdad on 9 April 2003," says Majid.

    "Thousands of people, and I am one of them, were thrown out in the street at the stroke of a pen."

    Employees of the ministry of defence and former army and security departments have been receiving regular payments, while employees of the information ministry have not.

    "The real irony is that army and defence employees are receiving the so-called emergency payment regularly, while we received payments from May to last October only. How on earth can I earn a living for my family?" asks Majid. 

    "We as government employees are not concerned with why the departments ceased operation, but we should receive our salaries if the current authority does not want us to work."

    Iraq still lacks a national TV station. The only available Iraqi TV station is run by the Lebanese satellite channel, LBC, but Majid knows he will not find employment there.

    "The LBC channel which is operating the Iraqi channel al-Iraqya does not want experienced people. They are after young faces."

    Army and defence ministry

    The recent clashes in Basra between jobless Iraqis and British forces have shed further light on the high unemployment rates in Iraq.

    "The real irony is that army and defence employees are receiving the so-called emergency payment regularly, while we received payments from May to last October only. How on earth can I earn a living for my family?"


    Majid, former senior presenter, Baghdad TV

    "The recent clashes in Basra tell you how enraged Iraqis are by being out of work," says Anas Sattar, an officer in the former Iraqi army.

    "I consider myself unemployed, though I am receiving monthly payments. A man does not except money for free, but, at the end of the day, I don't receive enough money. I am fed up sitting at home."

    Observers say the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who were sent home are a sleeping volcano.

    Current employment

    Fadwa al-Yasiri, an Iraqi teacher, says her standard of living is much better after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government.

    "I used to earn $2.5 a month; I could not afford to buy sweets for my family, but now I am earning around $300."

    Poverty and misery are obvious in the streets of Baghdad. The negative effects of 13 years of sanctions are apparent.

    But an Aljazeera staff member in Baghdad, Basim Kalash, says the standard of living has improved.

    "Though hundreds of thousands of army employees and disbanded ministry workers are still unemployed, there are also hundreds of thousands of government employees working and getting reasonable salaries.

    "However, thousands of Iraqi graduates are still jobless because of the no-recruitment policy in official Iraqi departments. They are working in different jobs on a day to day basis to earn their living."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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