Monday, March 24, 2014

United Nations Releases New Official Unemployment Numbers For Iraq

The United Nations recently released a new set of official unemployment statistics for Iraq. The national rate was at 11.3%. Just over half the country’s eighteen provinces had a lower jobless rate than that. A bigger problem was that less than half the population was involved in the work force. This was especially true for women who are still handicapped by cultural and religious mores that have kept the vast majority of them at home. Another issue is that services are the largest job type meaning that Iraq is not producing much. With such a large and young population Iraq needs to develop its economy more, so that it can find meaningful employment for all.

According to the U.N. most of Iraq’s 18 provinces were doing quite well when it came to joblessness. The official rate for the country was 11.3%. Ten provinces had a lower figure starting with Kirkuk, which was at the bottom with 2.5%, followed by Irbil 7.3%, Ninewa 7.3%, Dohuk 8.8%, Babil 9.5%, Karbala 9.6%, Baghdad 9.7%, Wasit 9.7%, Basra 10.3%, and Najaf 10.4%. The ones that were not doing so well were Salahaddin with 13.5%, Qadisiayh 13.7%, Muthanna 14.5%, Diyala 15.0%, Sulaymaniya 15.0%, Maysan 15.4%, Anbar 18.1%, and Dhi Qar 19.4%. What was interesting about these numbers was that there were no regional trends. Kurdistan for example had two of the best governorates in Irbil and Dohuk with single figure unemployment numbers, but then Sulaymaniya was the fourth worst. Likewise the south had Karbala and Wasit at 9% each, but then Maysan and Dhi Qar with two of the highest numbers.

Unemployment By Province
Iraq 11.3%
Kirkuk 2.5%
Irbil 7.3%
Ninewa 7.3%
Dohuk 8.8%
Babil 9.5%
Karbala 9.6%
Baghdad 9.7%
Wasit 9.7%
Basra 10.3%
Najaf 10.4%
Salahaddin 13.5%
Qadisiyah 13.7%
Muthanna 14.5%
Diyala 15.0%
Sulaymaniya 15.0%
Maysan 15.4%
Anbar 18.1%
Dhi Qar 19.4%

One major cause for provinces to do so badly was the high unemployment rate for women. Only three provinces had jobless numbers for females below the national level. Those were Kirkuk, 3.4%, Salahaddin, 7.4%, and Wasit 9.9%. The other 13 were in double digits starting with Babil, 13.2%, Basra 13.2%, Anbar 15.1%, Ninewa 15.7%, Maysan 16.1%, Muthanna 16.1%, Dohuk 16.4%, Irbil 19.6%, Qadisiyah 21.2%, Najaf 23.4%, Baghdad 24.9%, Dhi Qar 24.4%, Diyala 33.3%, Karbala 34.1%, Sulaymaniya 37.5%. Here there was some correlation with Dhi Qar, Sulaymaniya, and Diyala being in the bottom for both overall and female unemployment.

Female Unemployment
Kirkuk 3.4%
Salahaddin 7.4%
Wasit 9.9%
Babil 13.2%
Basra 13.2%
Anbar 15.1%
Ninewa 15.7%
Maysan 16.1%
Muthanna 16.1%
Dohuk 16.4%
Irbil 19.6%
Qadisiyah 21.2%
Najaf 23.4%
Baghdad 24.9%
Dhi Qar 24.4%
Diyala 33.3%
Karbala 34.1%
Sulaymaniya 37.5%

As could be expected Iraqi men found it much easier to find work. 11 governorates had male unemployment below the national rate. Kirkuk was at 2.3%, Irbil at 4.1%, Karbala had 6.1%, Ninewa 6.2%, Baghdad 6.3%, Najaf 7.2%, Dohuk 7.6%, Babil 8.6%, Sulaymaniya 8.8%, Wasit 9.6%, and Basra 9.9%. Those at the other end were Diyala 11.9%, Qadisiyah 12.3%, Salahaddin 13.5%, Muthanna 14.3%, Maysan 15.3%, Dhi Qar 18.7%, Anbar 18.8%. Diyala, Salahaddin and Anbar not only saw major fighting, but displacement and disruption of their local economies, which could account for their high joblessness. The south is underdeveloped, especially for provinces with little to no oil or religious sites like Qadisiyah and Muthanna. Petroleum is not labor intensive however meaning if a governorate doesn’t have other industries there is little work, which accounts for Maysan being towards the bottom.

Male Unemployment
Kirkuk 2.3%
Irbil 4.1%
Karbala 6.1%
Ninewa 6.2%
Baghdad 6.3%
Najaf 7.2%
Dohuk 7.6%
Babil 8.6%
Sulaymaniya 8.8%
Wasit 9.6%
Basra 9.9%
Diyala 11.9%
Qadisiyah 12.3%
Salahaddin 13.5%
Muthanna 14.3%
Maysan 15.3%
Dhi Qar 18.7%
Anbar 18.8%

Iraq has one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the Middle East and North Africa. That offers both opportunities and problems for the country. Finding jobs for the young in an oil dependent country is very difficult, and Iraq is failing in this effort. Kirkuk was the only province that was doing well at 6.0%. All the others were in double digits. Ninewa was at 12.0%, Irbil 12.4%, Wasit 13.6%, Dohuk 13.9%, Karbala 14.0%, Najaf 14.6%, Babil 15.2%, Baghdad 17.1%, Salahaddin 18.8%, Sulaymaniya 19.5%, Muthanna 20.8%, Basra 21.9%, Diyala 22.3%, Qadisiyah 22.6%, Maysan 25.2%, Anbar 29.9%, and Dhi Qar 32.8%. These figures are another reason why some governorates are struggling. Again, Maysan, Anbar, and Dhi Qar were in the bottom three for both overall and youth unemployment. Iraq lacks a diversified economy. The vast majority of its money comes from the energy field that only employs 1% of the population. That means that country can’t produce enough jobs annually to keep up with the population growth. As a result these statistics will likely get worse with time unless a real move is made at economic reform. Unfortunately there is little political will to do so though since the ruling elite benefit from the current system since it makes them independent of the public.

Youth Unemployment (15-29)
Kirkuk 6.0%
Ninewa 12.0%
Irbil 12.4%
Wasit 13.6%
Dohuk 13.9%
Karbala 14.0%
Najaf 14.6%
Babil 15.2%
Baghdad 17.1%
Salahaddin 18.8%
Sulaymaniya 19.5%
Muthanna 20.8%
Basra 21.9%
Diyala 22.3%
Qadisiyah 22.6%
Maysan 25.2%
Anbar 29.9%
Dhi Qar 32.8%

Another sign of the lack of a healthy economy is the fact that less than half the population participates in the labor force, meaning people that are either working or looking for a job. Anbar does the best at 48.0%, but the fact that it has the second highest jobless level means that many of those people are searching for work. At the bottom is Dohuk at 37.6%. That is the least developed of the three provinces in Kurdistan. After that are the southern provinces of Muthanna 40.6%, Qadisiyah 41.8%, and Maysan 42.0%. The remainders are Ninewa 42.1%, Diyala 42.3%, Kirkuk 42.8%, Irbil 42.9%, Salahaddin 43.1%, Karbala 43.2%, Basra 43.6%, Baghdad 44.7%, Sulaymaniya 45.4%, Babil 45.8%, Wasit 46.8%, and Najaf 47.8%. Again there are huge gender disparities. For male labor force participation Dohuk again starts the list at 65.6%, then Irbil 69.4%, Sulaymaniya 70.5%, Diyala 71.1%, Dhi Qar 71.1%, Salahaddin 71.8%, Qadisiyah 71.9%, Kirkuk, 73.4%, Babil 73.6%, Baghdad 73.8%, Ninewa 74.2%, Basra 74.6%, Wasit 74.6%, Anbar 75.1%, Karbala 75.5%, Muthanna 75.8%, Maysan 76.1%, and Najaf 76.1%. Those compared to women at only 7.2% in Muthanna, 9.7% in Ninewa, 10.0% in Dhi Qar, 10.1% in Basra, 10.8% in Karbala, 11.6% in Dohuk, 11.9% in Maysan, 12.6% in Diyala, 12.6% in Kirkuk, 12.6% in Qadisiyah, 15.3% in Salahaddin, 16.3% in Baghdad, 17.4% in Irbil, 18.4% in Babil, 19.2% in Najaf, 19.3% in Wasit, 19.8% in Sulaymaniya, and 20.4% in Anbar. Even the best province only had one fifth of their women at work or searching for employment, and again that was in an area with horrible job prospects. The turn towards conservatism following the 2003 invasion, and widespread violence were two major reasons why women have such low numbers. This decline has been going on for decades however beginning with the demobilization following the Iran-Iraq War. Before that the Baath Party had actively sought to bring women into the work force first as part of its modernization program, and then to fill the openings left by men joining the army. Afterward however as men left the armed forces the government started talking about women returning to the home.

Labor Force Participation
Dohuk 37.6%
Dhi Qar 40.5%
Muthanna 40.6%
Qadisiyah 41.8%
Maysan 42.0%
Ninewa 42.1%
Diyala 42.3%
Kirkuk 42.8%
Irbil 42.9%
Salahaddin 43.1%
Karbala 43.2%
Basra 43.6%
Baghdad 44.7%
Sulaymaniya 45.4%
Babil 45.8%
Wasit 46.8%
Najaf 47.8%
Anbar 48.0%

Male Labor Force Participation
Dohuk 65.6%
Irbil 69.4%
Sulaymaniya 70.5%
Diyala 71.0%
Dhi Qar 71.1%
Salahaddin 71.8%
Qadisiyah 71.9%
Kirkuk 73.4%
Babil 73.6%
Baghdad 73.8%
Ninewa 74.2%
Basra 74.6%
Wasit 74.6%
Anbar 75.1%
Karbala 75.5%
Muthanna 75.8%
Maysan 76.1%
Najaf 76.1%

Female Labor Force Participation
Muthanna 7.2%
Ninewa 9.7%
Dhi Qar 10.0%
Basra 10.1%
Karbala 10.8%
Dohuk 11.6%
Maysan 11.9%
Diyala 12.6%
Kirkuk 12.6%
Qadisiyah 12.6%
Salahaddin 15.3%
Baghdad 16.3%
Irbil 17.4%
Babil 18.4%
Najaf 19.2%
Wasit 19.3%
Sulaymaniya 19.8%
Anbar 20.4%

The final mark of Iraq’s problems was shown by the domination of services as the main form of work. The country has become more oil dependent with the passage of time. That was partly due to the closing of many industries and state owned enterprises by the United States and the opening of the borders to trade following the 2003 invasion, which allowed cheap imports in and put a lot of Iraqi businesses out of work. Now economic policy is focused upon increasing the role of energy even more. Those are all major reasons why service jobs are so prominent. Najaf had the lowest rate at 28% in services, followed by 30% in Ninewa, 30.5% in Babil, 34% in Karbala, 34.5% in Kirkuk, 38% in Baghdad, 38.6% in Basra, 39% in Qadisiyah, 39.1% in Muthanna, 40% in Maysan, 40.5% in Diyala, 41% in Dhi Qar, 42.9% in Sulaymaniya, 50.4% in Dohuk, and a whopping 79.2% in Irbil. Wasit and Salahaddin were the only exceptions where farming, 31.4%, and mining/manufacturing 32.6%, were in the lead. Even then 31% of workers were in services in Wasit. Agriculture could be an industry that would offer growth, unemployment, and needed products for domestic consumption, but it has been in decline since 2003. While 13 provinces still had sizeable farming sectors, for most of them they were a very small fraction of the work available. Those were Irbil, 5.9%, Dohuk, 7%, Sulaymaniya, 7%, Diyala, 10%, Ninewa, 13.8%, Dhi Qar, 14%, Kirkuk, 15.1%, Najaf, 18%, Qadisiyah, 18%, Maysan, 20%, Babil, 24.5%, Salahaddin, 30.9%, and Wasit, 31.4%. The United States, Baghdad, and Irbil have all talked about developing farming, and some policies have been implemented, but they have not been that effective.

Employment By Sector In Each Province
Najaf: Services 28%, farming 18%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 16.8%
Ninewa: Services 30%, construction 23%, farming 13.8%
Babil: Services 30.5%, farming 24.5%, construction 13.9%
Karbala: Services 34%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 20%, construction 19%
Kirkuk: Services 34.5%, farming 15.1%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 15%
Baghdad: Services 38%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 18.2%, construction 14.3%, transportation, communication 12.4%
Basra: Services 38.6%, construction 20%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 14.1%
Qadisiyah: Services 39%, farming 18%, construction 16%
Muthanna: Services 39.1%, construction 25.2%, whole, retail, restaurants, hotels 11.3%, transportation, communication 11.2%
Maysan: Services 40%, farming 20%
Diyala: Services 40.5%, construction 18.7%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 12.9%, farming 10%
Dhi Qar: Services 41%, construction 17%, farming 14%
Sulaymaniya: Services 42.9%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 16.3%, construction 11.6%, farming 7%
Dohuk: Services 50.4%, construction 17.5%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 10.8%, farming 7%
Irbil: Services 79.2%, manufacturing 14.9%, farming 5.9%
Wasit: Farming 31.4%, Services 31%
Salahaddin: Mining, manufacturing 32.6%, farming 30.9%, construction 12.8%

The major problem with the official unemployment rate is that there are plenty of others that claim the actual figures are much higher. Not only that there is massive underemployment. The government for example is the largest employer yet many workers are hired as family and political supporters in patronage networks and are never meant to really work. They show up for their jobs and do very little and often serve only a few hours a day. That is even more reason why economic reform is desperately needed in Iraq to find futures for the ever growing populace. The industrial and agricultural sectors of most provinces are squandering away, while ineffective and lackadaisical planning is not helping. Instead both Baghdad and Irbil are set not only on building rentier states, but increasing their dependence upon oil. That’s the reason why both the central and regional governments main solution to the unemployment dilemma is to simply hire more government workers rather than diversify and deal with the root problems of the country’s economy.


Joint Analysis Unit, “Anbar Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Babil Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Baghdad Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Basrah Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Diyala Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Dohuk Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Erbil Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Kerbala Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Kirkuk Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Missan Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Muthanna Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Najaf Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Ninewa Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Qadissiya Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Salah al-Din Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Sulaymaniya Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Thi-Qar Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Wassit Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014

1 comment:

Unknown said...

All this increasing dependence on Oil in Iraq's economy violates the constitution (see second half of article 25 of the constitution)

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