In Weak Economy, Iraqis Look for Government Jobs

The Iraqi Ministry of Education said that one of its universities has  surrendered to overwhelming pressure and agreed to sign contracts with several  employees based on a daily wage system. They have settled on a salary of $8 per  month. The employees hope to obtain permanent positions as they become  available. Some of them have leaked information to the media to increase the  pressure on their employers.

A job in the government has become the dream for millions of Iraqi university  graduates, as the private sector plays a declining role in the job market.

Qassem Muhammad, media manager in the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education,  stated that “the Iraqi media has published reports about the contract between  the University of Technology and daily wage workers. As long as they settle for  around $8 per month, they get a promise of permanent employment. This was seen  as an act of exploitation or mismanagement by some. Moreover, the truth is that  these contract workers have put a lot of pressure on the university to push it  to sign contracts with them. They were even willing to give up their wages for  the contract, since it would give them priority to become permanent employees,  in case of job availability.”

Muhammad believes that several contract workers leaked the contract to local  media in order to amp up pressure on the university to give them permanent  employment.

The Ministry of Higher Education benefits from a law known as the “Academic  Service Law,” which provides for a higher salary for university teachers and  administrators. Those holding a bachelor’s degree from one of Iraq’s  universities gets paid roughly $800 per month upon beginning work, while the  salary of someone working in any other governmental sector does not exceed $500.  This has made higher education appealing to individuals who want to work with  the government.

Muhammad said that he has examined contracts that were signed by the  workers. He says they settled for a symbolic salary, on condition of allowing  them the opportunity to be appointed as permanent employees.

He added, “The law gives universities financial and managerial independence,  and grants them legal status. For this reason, the ministry was not aware of  these contracts, since they were outside its area of expertise.”

Iraq stopped following a daily wages system about two years ago, and the  ministry gave its orders to make the contract workers permanent employees if new  positions become available.

Most jobs created by the country’s budget during those two years have aimed  to make contract workers permanent employees and to calculate their actual  contract terms for raise, salary and contractual purposes.

Sources from the University of Technology said that some employees have been  on contract for more than two years, and others for more than a year, without  being included in the permanent employee scheme. Some became so desperate that  they left their jobs altogether.

In some cases, the monthly salary specified in the university contract  amounted to 1,000 Iraqi dinars — or less than 90 cents.

A permanent employee at the Ministry of Higher Education said that “the  efforts deployed by the daily wage contract workers are not different from those  of their permanent counterparts.”

The Iraqi government is the most important source of job opportunities in the  country, amid an open local market, an overflow of imported products and scarcity of job opportunities in the suffering private  sector.