So you don't have a job? Of course you don't. You live in Iraq. Unemployment nationwide has been hovering between a dismal 25% and an astoundingly bad 40% for almost three years now. But don't worry, if you live in the Karkh area of Baghdad you can ignore those numbers. Your unemployment rate is closer to 60%!
Faced with this crisis, the Karkh Chamber of Commerce and Industry NGO recently took some action. I know what you're thinking: there seems to be only one obvious answer to a 60% unemployment figure. And you would be right -- they held a jobs fair!
Over 25 companies and several international businesses showed up, all offering jobs in areas around Baghdad considered relatively safe. What's even smarter is that each company was looking for applicants with residences in the area a particular project would be rooted. With less road to travel, or hardly any at all, workers are much safer from insurgent attacks.
While the notion of a jobs fair in Baghdad might not be the first solution that comes to mind in light of a 60% unemployment figure, consider this: over 4,000 applicants attended (predominantly younger persons with college degrees) and thousands of jobs were offered. With such an enthusiastic turnout, another fair has been scheduled in Rasafa, Baghdad.
"We intended to put companies in direct touch with the unemployed. The unemployed should invest their energy working in their neighborhoods instead of joining the insurgents," said Ali Jamil Latif, head of the NGO. "We believe that when we ensure people have a good life, the security situation will improve." Indeed, EPIC's recent Ground Truth Interview with Professor Eric Davis came to the same conclusion, as well as several non-job-fair solutions for Iraq's unemployment crisis.
We need to remember that economics and security are intertwined. The jobs fair, while such a simple idea, means that the 4,000 persons in attendance are 4,000 persons less likely to be recruited for militias and terrorist groups. A jobs fair could link someone who is increasingly worried about how he or she is going to put food on the table with the means to do so. Unemployment is not just a statistic: it's progress defined.
PHOTO CREDITS: Characters in the comedy cult film Office Space (1999) contemplate what it would be like if they all lost their jobs.