The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

  1. Home
  2. Middle East and North Africa
  3. Iraq

Youth unemployment driving emigration

[Iraq] Girls and boys at the (Musbah) youth center get a chance to draw, paint and do ceramics.

A just released national youth survey in Iraq says youth unemployment is running at over 20 percent and many young people are thinking of emigrating.

Up to 23 percent of males and 21 percent of females aged 15-24 are unemployed, according to a 2009 National Youth Survey by the government and the UN Population Fund (released on 16 July). Of these, 33 percent intend to go abroad in search of work, it said.

“The youth are the mainstay of every society; they are an energy-producing force but are at the same time a source of grave danger when they do not have jobs and opportunities for a decent life,” the 189-page report noted.

Young people, it warned, faced “violence, unemployment and marginalization”.

Baghdad taxi driver Ahmed Hassan qualified as a mechanical engineer in 2001, but has since struggled to find a job commensurate with his skills, despite sending off numerous applications.

"I've made up my mind to emigrate," Hassan, 36, said. "I am desperate for a permanent job with a steady income which I'm certain I will not find here."

The survey report recommends that a national youth strategy be developed to take advantage of a demographic window that will open up within the next decade when the economically active population (aged 15-64) exceeds the dependent population (below 15 and over 64).

"This report will definitely grab the government’s attention as it offers a good and comprehensive database on youth, their problems and the best ways to invest in this community," said Ali Al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. He hoped the government would have a “thorough and detailed” strategy “by next year".

However, Basil al-Azawi, who heads the Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Enterprises, a coalition of over 1,000 NGOs, expressed doubt that a youth-related strategy could be implemented by the government any time soon.


“This [the survey report] is no more than visions and theories on paper,” Al-Azawi said. “In recent years we have not seen any serious measures to help the youth build their future.” Political wrangling and security challenges had diverted the government from focusing on youth unemployment, he explained.

Baghdad-based economist Aziz Falih said the private sector offered the best hope, and that the government should make loans available to young people to help them get started in business.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

Share this article
Join the discussion

Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.

We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant. 

But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced. 

You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission. 

Support The New Humanitarian today.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.