Kurdistan must create 70k jobs annually; unemployment will double in 10 years
An estimated 620,000 people remain unemployed in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region and that number will more than double in a decade, a US professor with expertise on Iraq warned at a conference in Erbil on Wednesday.
“My own research shows that, between residents and refugees settled here, there are 620,000 unemployed,” said Frank Gunter, professor of economics at Lehigh University in the United States.
“I believe that, of all the challenges facing the Kurdistan Region, job creation is the most serious,” Gunter said during the First Economic Forum of Erbil’s Middle East Research Institute (MERI).
He said that with 70,000 people trying to join the work force every year, the current number of 620,000 unemployed will more than double in a year. Starting now, the Kurdish government must create 70,000 annually.
Most of those looking to join the work force every year – but failing – are men, said Gunter, who is the author of “The political economy of Iraq: Restoring balance in a post-conflict society.”
“That is a destabilizing influence. Young men want jobs, they want to get married. If they can’t do that, it leads to alienation and other problems which lead to destabilization. We have seen this in the United States and in other places,” said the Gunter.
The American professor said that Kurdistan’s population of some 5.5 million – which has swollen to some 7 million due to the influx of war refugees from Syria and the internally displaced from other parts of Iraq – is predominantly under 14 years of age.
He warned that within a decade the number of job seekers will have increased to 80,000 per year.
“That means that those looking for jobs in 2030 – less than 15 years from now – have been already born,” he said.
The professor said that the problem has been exacerbated by the 1.8 million war refugees that have sought shelter in Kurdistan. He added that the pressure on the Kurdish government to create jobs would ease once the refugees leave.
“But experience from around the world has shown that refugees do not leave quickly. It will not take months for them to leave; it will take years, even a decade or more.”