UNEMPLOYMENT: A Scourge that Haunts Yemen [Archives:1997/41/Business & Economy]

October 13 1997

By: Anwar Maghram*
BACKGROUND: Unemployment is one of the socio-economic problems which societies suffer from, especially in the Third World. The problem requires a serious and steady tackling by governments in order to reduce its impact on the well-being of the whole society. Unemployment has a direct and strong social and economic impact on the individual, family, and society in general. With the industrial revolution and the subsequent modern developments which touched every aspect of life, a new problem appeared. Thousands of employees suddenly found themselves without work and job opportunities began to be less available than before. Machines have replaced human labor. As a result, workers were sacked. Another reason for unemployment is the misuse and mismanagement of economic activities. Financial and administrative corruption have also much to do with this phenomenon. In Yemen today, we suffer from this phenomenon to a large extent. Some estimates say that the level of unemployment among work-seeking adults is around 35%. If you add to that disguized unemployment, you will realize that indeed there is a major problem.
A FIELD STUDY: As part of the university graduation requirement, I studied the cases of 400 unemployed persons. These are people who either had a job, but are now they out of work, or those looking for jobs for the first time. The random samples are taken from among the residents of Sanaa. The sample base is 75% males, and 25% females. The research location was basically the Civil Service Office, but also included the different employment agencies. The ages of those surveyed ranged from 15-35. Among the sample base, half the sample comprised people 25 years old and younger. The age group of 26-30 years, comprised 30%. The rest are those whose ages ranged between 31-35 years. The youngest age grounp (15-20 years) formed 7% of the sample base. As for the social conditions, 62.0% of the people were married and they had their own family responsibilities. It appears from the sample that married lot starts with the age 21. This shows Yemenis marry at an early age. As for the level of education, 52% of them completed secondary level edu cation. The want to get jobs in various professional fields. The second lot are university graduates and they represent 40% of the sample. This shows that many university graduates are idle and that as graduates pour out of universities, the problem will be more complicated. The survey also shows that 5% of the unemployed basically know how to read and write but have no certifiactes, while another 2.0% have completed primary level education. Among the graduates, those from the college of commerce (accountancy, business administration, economics, statistics, political science) represent 37.5% of the unemployed university people; the graduates of the college of law and Sharia represent 25%; graduates of the colleges of education and arts represented 12.5% each; graduates of the college of science represented 6.25%. The rest belong to other colleges such as engineering and agriculture. Among the women, the kind of jobs they look for are clerical office work. They want the job to be located in Sanaa, although the survey showed that 57.2% of them came to Sanaa recently and are neither natives nor old-timers in Sanaa. Again among the women, 42.5% are married housewives. A very small number of women (2.5%) want to work in private businesses.  In terms of regional origin within the country, the unemployed come from the capital city Sanaa (42.5%), rural Taiz Governorate (32.5%), rural Sana’a (15%), Taiz city (5%), the rural area of Ibb (2.5%). As for the former residence of the family of the unemployed, Taiz rural areas occupy the first place with 50%, followed by Sana’a city and rural areas with 30%. As for accommodation, 50% live in houses, 42.5% live in apartments and 7.5% live in temporary lodging such as shops and hotels. For those living in houses, some 2.5% have more than four rooms, 17.5% have four rooms per family, 35% have three rooms per family, and 20% have two rooms. Half of those living in houses, actually own them.  For those who live in rented homes, 40% pay around YR. 7,000-8,000 per month, 20% pay YR. 5,000-6,000 per month, and 35% pay around YR. 3,000-4,000. As for those who continue to own agricultural lands, they form 45% of the surveyed unemployed people. They say their land is tilled by members of the family. They grow grains such as wheat, barley, etc. (60%), fruits (30%), and vegetable growers (5%), and others (5%). The fertility rate is very high in Yemeni families. When asked about the number of persons in the family for which they are responsible, 65% of the respondents said there were seven or more members of the family. Such large families further compound the difficulties of the unemployed bread-winners. In terms of the job turnover, 50% of those questionned have changed more than four jobs.Those who changed their jobs at least twice represent 40%. The balance represent those who are looking for jobs for the first or second time. In terms of duration of unemployment, most are out jobs for less than a year. Only 10% have been out of work for more than three years.
REASONS & SOLUTIONS FOR UNEMPLOYMENT: Most unemployed (65%) see that general mismanagement is a responsible for their predicament. The state is blamed directly by around 10%. of the unemployed. Another 10% blames corruption and favoritism as reasons for their continued unemployment. None of the respondents felt that they did not have employable skills or that they needed re-training. “We are just out of university. Why do you ask whether we need new training?”. The solutions envisaged by the unemployed are: – The state should concern itself more directly with this phenomenon. – There should be better economic planning. – Bribery, favoritism and nepotism should be fought. – Half of the unemployed men thought that women should stay at home to make room for more male employment.  – More investments to create new job opportunities are required.
IMPACT OF UNEMPLOYMENT ON PERSONAL NEEDS: The majority (95%) of the presently unemployed are affected by their situation to the level of having been forced to change their lifestyle and consumption pattern. Is qat consumption abandoned? No, but the quality, quantity and regularity of its consumption have been affected.  Some 30% of those presently unemployed have been forced to sell properties to cushion the burden. Still, their living conditions have been affected. In terms of the things they have sold, the wife’s jewelry topped the list (25%); furniture comes next (20%), and arable land (15%). Borrowing money is a standard financial bridge, although there are less and less lenders around. In one case, the man said he had to hurriedly marry off his daughter to an unacceptable groom simply because the family could use the money from the dowry. This study has shown that unemployment is a real menace in Yemen. The problem is bound to grow and will lead to restlessness and security problems unless something is done.
* Anwar Maghram is a contributor to Yemen Times.  He is presently unemployed. He is a graduate of Sociology from Sanaa University.