Unemployment: Still the Heart of Tunisia’s Flame

Among the foremost triggers of the Tunisian popular uprisings is the persisting level of unemployment. As Le Capsien, a blog from Gafsa, reminds its readers:

Of course, our greatest enemy is obviously UNEMPLOYMENT. Young and old with the required educational levels to attain a decent job (or not) – even the young and freshly graduated. (Le Capsien)

Close to one year following the ouster of former president Ben Ali, The Bouzidi Voice, a blog from Sidi Bouzid, investigates the reasons behind the rampant unemployment. It offers explanations as to why the handicraft sector, for instance – which has been absorbing a significant level of unemployment in the region – has been suffering.

Among the major problems in the [handicraft] market is the attitude of intermediaries, who keep raising prices and reducing handicrafts’ workers profit margins, taking advantage of their difficult conditions. (The Bouzidi Voice)

The difficult conditions that are being taken advantage of are also exacerbating the already tense atmosphere in local municipalities and state administrations. Makthar, for example, was one of the cities that was severely affected by the this year’s winter snow storms – which were unexpected and in most cases, incredibly debilitating to local infrastructure. On February 20, municipal workers went on strike for four days. The snow storms, however, have also helped unveil the poverty the region has been suffering for ages:

The recent calamities that hit the northwest and particularly Makthar, Ain Drahem, and Thala and have demarcated the deprived areas and lifted the veil on endemic disease that is endured by these poor people, who are long forgotten and left behind. (Maktaris)

Yet, unveiling the regional disparities amounts to nothing when one is reminded of how the youth is still illegally immigrating – or running away in desperation, in search of a better future – to nearby European territory, such as the Italian island, Lampedusa. Not only are Tunisia’s human capacities being degenerated, but the young (mostly) men that leave are unheard of since their departure. Kasserine’s blog made a reportage on this specific issue, in search of the city’s lost youth:

Hasniya, the mother of Dhia el-Rabhi – who was wounded in the January 14 revolts – still has faith that her son is alive, despite not hearing from him in over a year.  What has increased her sorrow is the carelessness of the government in dealing with this issue. She confirms that, along with other families suffering the same conditions, she has tried getting in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs several times but with no success. (Kass Blog)

Unemployment is the number one problem in Tunisia, and from it stem many others – such as illegal immigration, continuous strikes and protests, and increasingly tense relationships in local administrations. But the Nefzawi blog, written from the southern town of Gebili, reminds readers that the Tunisian youth is ready to work – but only if some minimum requirements are met:

The youth in Gebili, like the youth in the rest of the country, is ambitious and willing to work night and day once the possibilities and necessary encouragements are made available, and if an honest terrain is put in place, and if there is a serious desire to help. There should also be development plans and clear orientation in identifying energy sources to produce sustainable development. (Nefzawi)

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