Kurdistan unemployment risen sharply due to COVID-19, economic crisis: officials

A Kurdish boy wearing a face mask is pictured in downtown Sulaimani. (Esta Media Network)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The Kurdistan Region’s unemployment has risen sharply due to the negative impacts of coronavirus and economic crisis, according to Kurdish officials.

Spokesman of the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs Aryan Ahmed said there were several reasons for the increase in unemployment in the Region, including the virus spread and financial issues between Erbil and Baghdad.

Other reasons include suspension of works at dozens of private companies and delays in payment as well as the economic situation in the Region, Ahmed told Esta Media Network.

“These are reasons why a large number of workers are jobless,” he said.

The Kurdistan Region has been hit by an economic crisis due to drop in oil prices, the coronavirus pandemic and issues with Baghdad which led to the cut of its share of the federal budget.

As a large portion of the Region’s revenue relies exclusively on oil exports, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has not been able to pay salaries of several months in 2020.

Sirwan Mohammed, head of the Kurdistan Region’s office of statistics, said no survey had been conducted for unemployment rate since 2018, when it was nine percent.

“If we do a survey now, we will certainly see a sharp rise in unemployment due to negative impacts of the coronavirus, delays in payment and the Region’s share of the budget which hasn’t been sent by the Iraqi government,” Mohammed told Esta Media Network.

According to the Iraqi ministry of planning, 22 percent of Iraqis live under the poverty line because of the economic crisis facing the country.

The ministry’s statistics shows that the rate of poverty is 5.5% in the Kurdistan Region. Erbil’s poverty has reached 6.7%, while it is 4.5% in Sulaimani. In Duhok, it has reached 8.6%.

Iraqi parliament’s committee of finance has said that the unemployment rate in central and southern Iraq has passed 40% during the coronavirus spread, while it was 20% before the pandemic.

Regarding solutions to the unemployment rate, Ahmed said the KRG was working to pay small loans to people who want to start its own business through projects or jobs.

“Another plan of the ministry is to reorganize works of foreign workers in order to restrict bringing them because one of the issues and reasons of a lack of job opportunities for our people is the [presence of] a large number of foreign workers,” Ahmed added.

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