Iraq has a major unemployment problem. For the past decade, official unemployment rates have seen a continuous rise, reaching 14.2% in 2021. The lack of jobs has sparked popular protests in the past, including contributing to mass anti-establishment demonstrations in Oct. 2019, and continues to spark social unrest.
Demographic pressures are likely to exacerbate the challenges faced by the authorities. The Ministry of Planning anticipates that the country’s population will rise to 51.2M in 2030 from the current 41.1M, creating a further squeeze on jobs. Competition for employment is heightened by the presence of foreign labor.
The true number of foreign workers in Iraq is unclear. Former Labor Minister Basim Abdul-Zaman stated in July 2019 that the figure stood at around 750,000. This is while last year the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs maintained that there were 400,000 illegal foreign workers in Iraq. However, the latest figures presented by the parliament’s Labor and Social Affairs Committee in March asserted that there are 1.5M foreign laborers in the country, including illegal workers.
Whatever the true number, the presence of foreign workers has stoked discontent among some Iraqis. Akram Hamid, a worker at a home decor company, told Amwaj.media that even with his job, “Life has become unbearable in light of the prevalent hardships.” In his view, “The main reason our work has slowed down is the influx of foreign labor from Asian and African countries, as well as Syria and Lebanon, who are...
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