Friday, July 20, 2007

The Econ Report: "So How Many Resumes Should I Bring?"

Characters in the comedy cult film Office Space (1999) contemplate what it would be like if they all lost their jobs... Well, it would be very similar to Iraq.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.


rwst346 said...

The fact is that just about everything good in any country springs from people having jobs, and not make-work jobs. I am pleased you adressed this issue and realize that jobs are a starting point that produce a ripple effect of legal, education and health, self respect etc. I could go on and on.

Anonymous said...

Makes sense but the insurgents would probably try to disrupt the job fair! Any congregating place is a potential target for them. This would be a particularly demoralizing one.

Geoff Schaefer said...

Rwst346 - You couldn't be more right. And to claim that employment has a ripple effect is an understatement. I just don't think people realize how important a job really is.

Getting laid off is one thing, but knowing there isn't even the slightest possibility you're going to get hired again - at all, anywhere in the country - or that you could die because of your next job if you're lucky enough (or pay enough) to find one, understandably drives people to extremes.

I would just like people to put themselves in their shows and try to imagine what it would be like here. That's the only way we can gain a better perspective on the gravity of the situation.

Geoff Schaefer said...

Anonymous - The good news is it didn't happen. The fair went off without a hitch. Granted, there is always potential for disruption of future fairs but you have to start somewhere.

Cross your fingers the next one goes off without a hitch too - then they would be making some great progress. That's already 4000 more people with a glimmer of hope. Who knows what that could turn into.

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