Job fair offers hope to young unemployed in Iraqi province

Bol News  |  May 15, 2022

A lucky few hoped to find work Sunday at a university job fair hosted by French and local companies in an Iraqi province where unemployment is about 40%.

The three-day conference is being held at the University of Mosul in Iraq’s war-torn second city, where restoration has been delayed five years after the Iraqi army pushed out Islamic State extremists with the help of US-led coalition air strikes.

Laith Abdallah, 24, was among dozens of students wandering on the campus lawn among stands set up by about 40 companies, most of them locally-based but including Carrefour and Schneider Electric from France.

Abdallah said he’d been looking for work since 2019 when he graduated in petroleum engineering.

“Our number increases each day and the opportunities are rare,” he said of the unemployed. “A young person has to get married and help his parents.”

Statistics from Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, say unemployment is around 40 percent generally and 20 percent for those aged 24-45.

Joblessness is similarly high elsewhere in the country which is trying to move past decades of war but is hobbled by corruption and other problems which sparked a youth-led protest movement in 2019.

“Unemployment is perhaps the ogre that devours the dreams of the young,” said Qussay al-Ahmad, president of the University of Mosul.

Ahmad hoped that the job fair would lead to “employment opportunities for hundreds of young people.”

Mustafa Aziz, 26, is among those fortunate to already be working. He hoped to recruit graduates with expertise in renewable energy or electrical engineering for his seven-member team at Mosul Solar.

“We need specific competence and expertise,” he said.

The job fair is part of a project called Yanhad, financed by France and the European Union, Jeremie Pellet, director-general of Expertise France, told AFP over the phone.

“This fits into our perspective of looking for future prospects and diversification of the private sector economy for Iraqi youth,” said Pellet.

According to Pellet, Yanhad had already backed a business “incubator” that had trained 320 young people in entrepreneurship and financed a dozen start-ups.

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