Unemployment in Yemen [Archives:2006/917/Opinion]

January 2 2006

Yemen's population increased from 12 million in 1990 to 19,721,643 in 2004. The increase is at an annual rate of 3.5 percent, overstepping labor capacity to provide jobs. The increased labor force is expected to continue climbing to four percent annually. This is attributed to three factors:

– 3.7 percent increased birth rate.

– Women desiring to join the labor market.

– National consumption fashion.

There are only 22 government employment offices due to the small size of the organized sector and the large size of the marginal one. For this reason, the private sector was allowed to open its own employment offices.

2003 workforce field surveys revealed that only a quarter of establishments know of the government employment offices. Only 1.5 percent of these establishments' employers contacted employment offices. Only 5.6 percent of employers contacted employment offices for new laborers because 96.6 percent of jobs are offered through personal relations.

The total of unemployed persons registered in the Civil Services Ministry in 2003 was 48,500. The total of those registered in the Ministry of Work that same year was 11,500, whereas private employment offices registered 6,600. The outcome of the 1999 job seekers survey showed that less than 3.5 percent registered in government offices.

2005's unemployed workforce was estimated at 5,116,000. Those employed were 4,281,000 and an unemployment rate of about 16.3 percent. Estimates indicate a workforce increase of 900,000 by 2006 and a 17.1 percent unemployment rate. Youth unemployment is expected to reach 34 percent.

Arithmetical and statistical estimates based on 1999-2006 workforce data point out that a one percent annual decrease in unemployment requires 22,000 jobs at minimum. This is in addition to 188,000 jobs needed to meet the increasing annual workforce.

Employment problems lie in administrative leadership's inadequate skills, indicating that workers' skills are insufficient. Added to this is incompetence in foreign languages and inability to use computers and other modern devices.

As for employment priorities, 85.1 percent of employers prefer males, while 4.5 percent prefer employing females; however, 15.4 do not differentiate between the sexes.

Dr. Adel Salim is a first expert and consultant in Ministry of Work