Call for Submissions: Towards Sustainable Job Creation in Iraq

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Extending until the end of 2020, Iraq Energy Institute is pleased to announce running a series of monthly articles on sustainable job creation at scale in Iraq. The aim is to put these articles, from a wide array of country experts, regional commentators and economists into a single report by January 2021. Our goal is to provide, to the public and Iraq specialists, a compiled publication that sheds light on strategies, policies and pathways for mitigating the challenge of youth unemployment in Iraq and framing solutions as an enabler for the nation’s overall development.

The Context

It is well known that unemployment in Iraq has been stubbornly high for at least three decades, leaving many Iraqis with no recourse but to accept work well below their level of qualification, or remain unemployed indefinitely. This long crisis has had destabilizing and socially corrosive effects, deskilling communities and entrenching a wide array of governance problems. Indeed, it has arguably been the root of many of Iraq’s problems after 2003.

It is no secret that in Iraq those looking for a job would seek a tribal or political connection to help employ them in the public sector, thus eroding meritocracy and rapidly eroding the state investment budget. But their chances of this are increasingly slim. Iraq’s monthly oil revenues, most of which are already spent on salaries, increasingly struggle to cover the public payroll. Since 2003, numerous protests and episodes of unrest have been linked to the unanswered demand for jobs. This is also a deterrent to foreign direct investment: no investor wants to see a project become subject to political competition over hiring. This has created a vicious circle.

Approaches to Tackling The Problem

Since 2003, approaches to mobilising public and private investment that could sustainably create jobs in Iraq have involved a number of pathways. These include reforms to the investment environment, including a new investment law passed in 2007 (revised on several occasions since), the creation of a National Investment Commission, along with Provincial Investment Commissions, as well as targeted reforms based on World Bank Ease of Doing Business guidelines such as cutting bureaucratic procedures. One aim has been to coordinate government entities to simplify market entry for investors and provide as much clarity as possible, and arguably ordoliberal approach, focusing on public sector reform as the gateway to more investment.

Additionally, there have been capacity-building efforts to train government officials in negotiating bilateral trade agreements, World Trade Organization agreements and international legal conventions such as the New York Convention on arbitration. As in any development situation, implementation has been a stumbling block.

In tandem with many of these approaches, there have been technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes for over a decade, organized with ministries, in addition to training programs with universities and localized, NGO led training efforts for small businesses. Sometimes these efforts have occurred in conjunction with microfinance efforts. These efforts have likely reached the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis over the years, but it is evident that many of these more locally-focused efforts have not achieved lasting gains.

The sum of these efforts have been underwhelming: unemployment has continued to grow relentlessly, suggesting that new approaches may be needed, or that efforts should have much longer timelines.

We invite all stakeholders (including but not limited to academics, country and region specialists, policymakers and employers) to submit contributions across a range of research topics relating to resolving this challenge.

Research Themes

The following are suggested thematic research priorities, contributions are not mandated to fit under any of them.

  • Economic diversification as a means for combating unemployment
  • Women empowerment and gender equality through employment
  • Private sector support and employment
  • Legal frameworks and policies for Iraqisation
  • Energy sector role in job creation

Guidelines

  • All submission shall follow Iraq Energy Institute (IEI)’s existing contribution guidelines available here.
  • If English is not your first language, we are happy to help in the editorial process in addition to translation from Arabic.
  • Submissions from non-Iraq specialists are highly desirable. We will be on hand to assist with any context-specific questions authors may have. However, please consider proposals you feel might be relevant to Iraq’s situation, or at least with strong consideration of similar regional challenges (SOE reform, resource dependency, fragmented internal politics, demographic youth bulge etc.) The World Bank’s 2018 Primer for Job Creation in Iraq is a good starting point.
  • Please avoid terminology that may not be known outside your specialization. Most organizations have their preferred terminology for referring to problems and concepts in political economy. However, we would like to make these proposals as accessible as possible. Briefly explain the concept, if it is not commonly known. For example, our readers will know what “capacity building” means, but you may lose readers at “techno-economic paradigm.” If you propose something, try and say briefly how such an effort would be focused. “Capacity building” is not an end in itself.
  • Please avoid political entreaties or monologues. While problems in development are often more political than technical, please refer only to political actors locally or in central government, rather than specific political parties or political figures. Generalizations about ethnic or religious groups will not be published.
  • Diagnosis of Iraq’s economic problems has been well documented. Please try and write forward-looking analysis, briefly mentioning the problems described in the introduction, where necessary.
  • Each submission should be no longer than 1500 words, ideally closer to 1000.
  • For publication, references can be embedded in the text. We will turn these into a complete reference list in the final document.

Submissions will be taken throughout the year. Please include ‘SUBMISSION’ in the subject of the email and a short (200 word) description of your proposal, as well as your short bio. Send your submission pitch to Robert Tollast (Editor) and Yesar Al-Maleki (Managing Director).

Robert Tollast

Yesar Al-Maleki