Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Perspective: Iraq's surging unemployment

Above: Iraqis crowd into a security checkpoint at a job fair in Baghdad's Zawara Park on Saturday

BAGHDAD -- Ali Ahmed is living "the garden life," as a new bit of Iraqi slang puts it. Two years after earning his engineering degree, the 27-year-old is among Iraq's teeming numbers of jobless with nothing to do but hang out in Baghdad's parks.

Frustrated, Ahmed says his 16 years of study were "a big mistake" and that he should have dropped out long ago to get a more menial job.

"I was dreaming to be a governmental employee or working in the private sector, but I realized later that these were only dreams," said the electrical engineering graduate from Iraq's University of Technology.

Iraq's soaring unemployment rate is estimated at 60 to 70 percent, and attempts to lower it are caught in a bloody Catch-22.

Joblessness helps fuel the country's insurgency, since idle young men can be lured into the ranks of militant groups -- but that same instability is hampering rebuilding efforts and economic growth that could generate more jobs.

Read the rest at the LA Times