Iraq is one of the most youthful countries in the world with over 60% of its population comprising of the youth who are under the age of 25. Despite all the problems that the country faces it the country is still well place to harness the potential of its young generation more so to achieve prosperity and promote peace. However, these challenges keep on obstructing the course of development and peace for the young people. They face challenges in opportunities for education, civic participation, and employment (Simonsen 15).
The youth in Iraq have a right to work and they deserve equal opportunity. Employment is not only an economic necessity but is also a necessity for meeting ones daily needs. Employment also helps the youth to discover themselves, their ambitions and dreams. The economic activity rate (EAR) is used to determine the economic contribution of a particular group and the active members in the job market. For the youth in Iraq, their EAR is 38% and 63% is made up of the male population whereas the ladies only constitute 12%. The higher EAR for males is made up of illiterate people who form 76% while the highest EAR for the females is made up of diploma or higher degree holder at 50%. Therefore education is a crucial aspect of a female getting a job than her male counterparts. Family and personal are the leading ways in which the youth get a job at 52.5%, followed by work experience at 18%, then educational attainment at 8.7%, technical or vocational training at 4.5% and finally other factors at 13.4%. There is also a high level of unemployment with about 37% of the youth with education being unemployed. The women are highly unemployed at 20% whereas the men only account for half of the unemployed ladies at 9% (Bank 34).
The Iraq government has undertaken the following measures to curb unemployment. These measures are also responsible for the underdevelopment in young people who work in the public sector. One of the measures is getting temporary contracts that act as an employment method aimed at reducing the rate of open unemployment. Then these contracts help relocate employees of ministries that have been closed and young graduates get a job. The public sector employment policy which was implemented in 2005 to increase the number public employees. The government also adopts short-term policies by absorbing those unemployed population into part-time marginalized jobs such as cleaners, guards, and painters of pavements or bridges which makes them underemployed (Gerner and Schwedler 36).
Due to the level unemployment and underemployment, the youth in Iraq are facing poverty. The future of the youth appears to be uncertain due to these factors. The rate of income poverty for the youth stands at about 17.9%. Unemployment and poverty have become the symbol of inequality and a widespread feeling of inequality feeling of injustice among the youth. This feeling of injustice continuously fuels the economic and social polarization that creates poverty and exclusion. When work is forced and unpaid it becomes a measure of exclusion.
The youth get their identity from political, religious, linguistic and cultural dimensions. How they respond to the environment is largely reliant on their family and social network. Youth culture also occurs as a response to local and international changes which might be a refutation of dominant values through other forms of cultural expression. The youth in Iraq are divided between two cultural currents which are mainly brought about by political dimensions. However, the society in Iraq is one of the most coexisting multicultural societies. The heritage together with spiritual dimensions helps the youth to connect the past with the future. Most of the youth hold on to everything related to the heritage whereas a few discard it to catch up with the global progress. We also have another group that pushes for the transformation of the society through modernity. It is important for the society to bring up and educate their children knowing and appreciating the value of their heritage.
In Iraq, religion is a socially cherished way for the youth in to discover themselves. The youth agree that the spiritual and religious values stand for the social philosophy and that violence and other types malpractices are not part of the religion. Religion inculcates values such as love, peace and tolerance and violence should be in no way linked to religion. However, the counterculture movements do exist and they are keen on attracting the young people. There is an imbalance in the sources of religious consciousness which is harmful to religious institutions, imams, schools, and families. This imbalance makes religion one of the major threats to families and the traditional hierarchies of authority, and it leads to unstable values in the youth. Young people will not give up their affiliations to religion or sects because these are historical values for them. Therefore, it is important for religious institutions to focus on setting an example for the youth and differentiate intolerance and extremism (Harrison 44).
The youth population in Iraq is set to increase by 107% by the year 2040. This population growth is set to pump in large numbers of the young people into the labor market. Having such a large population is not automatically a bad thing. Countries with well-established institutions and a strong economy will incorporate the youth into the economy and they can bring a lot in regards to production and vitality. On the other hand, countries that lack the social infrastructure needed to integrate them, these large numbers are termed as a burden on resources and a danger to social stability. However, if Iraq succeeds in using the high revenues attained from oil due to increase in oil prices to put up long-term projects they might be able to accommodate population growth comfortably. They should focus on projects that aim to increase the productivity in industrial, agricultural and service sectors. They can also take part in expanding the private sector and support youth projects and training programs that focus on making the valuable youth assets in the current economic and technological environment. If the country totally relies on oil revenues which fluctuate and poor economic policies then the country is likely to experience problems in the future. Over-reliant on the public sector is also not sustainable because at a certain point it will not be able to expand especially when the prices of oil drop (A Plan for Industrial Development in Iraq: A Report 27).
For the past two generations empowerment has not been achieved for the youth in Iraq. Over ten years after the war in Iraq ended the youth still face a lot of challenges. The opportunities for youth empowerment and capacity building are still limited. However, the country is still making tremendous steps in youth participation and empowerment in the path to attain peace and quality life of its citizens. The government has also adopted a 2013-2017 National Development Plan which highlights the challenges faced by the youth and comes up with a promising foundation for their empowerment.
A Plan for Industrial Development in Iraq: A Report. Arthur D. Little, Inc, 1956.
Bank, The W. Opening Doors: Gender Equality and Development in the Middle East and North Africa. World Bank Publications, 2013.
Gerner, Deborah J, and Jillian Schwedler. Understanding the Contemporary Middle East. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004.
Harrison, Mycroft R. Religious Freedom Issues in Iraq. Nova Science Publishers, Inc, 2010.
Simonsen, Jorgen B. Youth and Youth Culture in the Contemporary Middle East. Aarhus UP, 2005.
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