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Tunisia: unemployed graduates are major crisis

September 20, 2022 at 2:53 pm

Tunisians stage a demonstration against unemployment in Kamour region of Tataouine, Tunisia on 15 February 2021 [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]

The unemployment crisis in Tunisia is hitting the country again, despite the decline in the second quarter of this year to 15.3 per cent. It peaked last year in the third quarter at 18.4 per cent.

Unemployment is especially high among university graduates, and there are moves to activate a law approved by the now dissolved parliament (Law No. 38 of 2020) to hire the long-term unemployed. President Kais Saied has repealed the law.

The law relates to exceptional provisions for appointments in the public sector to employ those who have been unemployed for more than ten years. It was ratified by the parliament whose powers were frozen by Saied in July 2021. Graduates are now protesting and demanding the application of Law 38. They reject Saied’s failure to activate the law.

According to Abdel Sattar Sahbani, the Professor of Sociology at the University of Tunis, there are “several reasons behind the increasing unemployment crisis, including the training and employment system for those whose specialisations do not match the needs of the market and work.”

Al-Sahbani told Anadolu that the Ministry of Education has become unable to assign and employ these specialisations. “The global economy has changed and developed, while the education system in Tunisia is still incompatible with these changes, as evidenced by the fact that, for example, distance learning is still primitive.”

As far as sociologist Fouad Al-Gharabali is concerned, “The unemployment crisis that Tunisia is suffering from these days is linked to the pattern of the economy adopted in the country for years.” He told Anadolu that the country is facing an economic model based on small, fragile professions. “The state has made economic choices based on quantity by graduating a large number of students — 80,000 every year — in a narrow job market that does not have great prospects.”

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Al-Gharabali added that university graduates believe that the state should provide them with jobs. “However, the state is no longer able to do so, and its institutions are at capacity. Vocational training contributed previously to solving several problems, but it ended because of an educational policy that in recent years saw baccalaureate students granted the certificate despite getting low grades. Today, it is necessary to support the vocational training sector, so that it directs the middle educational levels to such training schools and craft training.”

The International Monetary Fund has called on the Tunisian government to carry out “very deep reforms, especially by reducing the size of the public sector, which is one of the largest in the world.”

The issue, said Al-Sahbani, is not an issue of law. “It’s related to the extent by which the public sector is able to absorb more unemployed people. Regardless of the law, government institutions will be forced in this case to pay people who do not perform their jobs and have no benefit.”

Tunisia's president Kais Saied is bleeding the country - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Tunisia’s president Kais Saied is bleeding the country – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]