It’s not what you know; it’s who you knowUnequal job opportunities [Archives:2005/881/Reportage]

September 29 2005

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In 1990, and after the great unity, the Yemeni government pledged to improve living standard throughout the country. It promised its citizens a life full with opportunities and prosperity within ten years. Many Yemeni's were illiterate, but sacrificed time and effort for education, hoping to see a better tomorrow. Governmental and public institutions arose during this period, lifting the spirits of all people. Jobs were seen guaranteed for all degree holders. Things looked as bright as ever. Then suddenly, culture played its old game.

Even with the great rise of education in almost all fields of learning, when speaking of jobs, there's still a part of culture that gives job priority to those who stand in special situations. It's in the open and clearly noticed that those who have somewhat of a relationship with managers or directors have a better chance of being hired or given a decent job position, even if they lack the required expertise and experience.

What makes this situation even more frustrating is that in numerous situations, people occupy more than one job, sometimes even four or five jobs during the length of the day. This does not mean that job opportunities are available like raindrops in this poor Middle Eastern country, but what it does prove is that jobs are not being distributed accordingly.

When the new biometric I.D. system was introduced last month, over 60,000 vacant positions were expected to become available for newly graduated university students. These posts were occupied illegally by people who were getting paid for doing nothing.

According to the World Bank Report, forty two percent of Yemen's 21 million people live under the U.S $2 per day. Some local activist put the number even much higher, while those who occupy jobs work for as low as $3 a day! These numbers are astonishing, but it reveals the sad situations many Yemeni's are forced to live with, even when holding a degree of any status.

More then sixty percent of taxi drivers in the capital admitted having a part time job, which they rarely work at, but still receive the full salary as if they were available at their post. “This is why our government is so corrupted, jobs are not distributed properly. “How could someone get paid for something he is not working for, while on the other hand, people are striving day and night looking for a job”, said Saleh Ali, a local storeowner who has four unemployed high school graduates. “This is the fault of the government as most of the corruption is happening in its institutions”.

Umm Ali a mother of one child says, “my next door neighbor has four jobs, two of them in governmental ministries, including the ministry of interior, and in return does not attend any of them while busying himself roaming around in his taxi”. Umm Ali is currently a teacher in Sana'a, she continued, “This proves that corruption must be fought from within the government to begin with”, she added.

Another dilemma concerning the same issue is that foreigners have a greater chance of receiving a decent job only because they are expatriate. A Yemeni who could be holding a higher degree or status is eventually sidelined or given a far lower salary. Samia Sultan 28, has a degree in computer engineering and after two years of job searching, she still can't find a decent job. She says, “How can someone holding a 5 year engineering degree still be looking for a job even after 2 years of continuous search. Is it because I am Yemeni, should I change my identity if I want a better position”, said Samia. She continues “I could of got married six years ago when I was still 18, but now at the age of 26, people have stopped knocking our door, and for what, for nothing but a lost identity”.

It really is a crisis when good, honest educated Yemeni's can't find jobs or are not getting paid as much as foreigners, whom ironically in some situations get paid ten times more. How can a person feed his children if his own country is betraying him? How could he cloth his family other than resort to corruption?

Dealing with a situation of this scale is somewhat different in other countries. For instance, our friendly Gulf State neighbor Oman, has a more professional way of dealing with this issue. When native Omani's lack the necessary requirements for a certain job, the government offers free courses for upgrading the skills of its native people, furthermore giving countrymen a better chance to serve the interest of their country. This in return raises the spirits of its people, therefore they realize that either be rich or poor, with hard work and continuous effort a bright future is guaranteed.

Government officials must understand the scale of the problem in order to solve it. No effort is noticeable in stopping such an ongoing dilemma, as if the issue deserves no importance whatsoever. It is finally time for the older generation who lack technical information to step down from their seats and give the more educated younger generation a chance to build this country and guide it to a better tomorrow. Will these situations continue for decades to come? How will the future of our children turn out to be? I really can't answer that question, but I do believe in miracles, and god willing we hope to see one soon.