Innovative technologies address youth unemployment in Iraq

What is the Foras project?

The word foras means “opportunity” in Arabic, an apt name for this project, which seeks to dramatically accelerate individuals’ access to employment opportunities in Iraq. USAID-Foras has launched web-based and mobile technology platforms to overcome barriers to employment, linking jobseekers with employers. Our immediate goal is to increase the number of youth and adults placed in jobs, but ultimately we want to introduce a more efficient model for how employers hire their workforce.

Why is this project needed in Iraq?

What USAID-Foras is doing in Iraq is essential to growth of the country’s economy and its stability. About 50 percent of the population in Iraq is 25 years or younger, and roughly half of that demographic is unemployed. Even more alarming, about 400,000 new jobseekers or eligible workers are added the economy yearly, but a vast majority of these individuals remain unemployed. This problem will only worsen without intervention.

What technologies has Foras launched thus far and who has access to them?

In 2013, we launched an online jobs portal, which is used by jobseekers and employers looking to hire. We adapted our portal from a similar tool developed by Microsoft in partnership with Silatech, a Qatar-based nonprofit organization. The original portal allowed jobseekers to upload a personal profile and resume or curriculum vitae (CV) and to look for available positions. We improved on this portal by adding a feature that matches jobseekers based on their skills and experiences to jobs that have been listed on the site by employers. We also made it available in English and Arabic.

How are you reaching jobseekers who do not have Internet access?

In collaboration with MT2, a mobile technology firm based in the Middle East, we developed a short-message service (SMS) application accessible from second-generation wireless (2G) devices. This means that users with basic cellphones, and not just smartphones, can access the key functions of the jobs portal, such as registering and filling out a modified CV. The mobile application is not as robust as the portal itself, which requires Internet access. But, it is extremely effective for reaching jobseekers who live in remote areas of the country with limited or no Internet access, and for skilled laborers who may be contacted on short notice by phone for jobs.

What are the benefits of addressing youth unemployment?

Iraq is a country that is emerging from decades of turmoil and upheaval. Undoubtedly these problems will be compounded by the rapid growth of the youth population, who are overwhelmingly unemployed and with little direction or sense of purpose. One way to address this problem head-on is to provide the mechanisms to link youth and adult jobseekers to the opportunities that currently exist.

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