The Kurdistan Region’s labor market faces a major challenge in coming years. According to a recent study commissioned by the KRG and undertaken by RAND Corporation, the public sector potentially accounts for roughly 80% of jobs in the Region. Meanwhile, the demographic makeup of the Region is skewed extremely young: 50% of the Region’s population is 20 years of age or younger. This creates an unsustainable situation. The already oversized public sector cannot absorb all of the young graduates planning to join the workforce in coming years. To solve this problem, private sector employment must expand significantly as these new graduates join the labor market. Furthermore, a developed private sector in the Region will promote sustainable, productive, and efficient economic growth into the future in ways that the public sector would have difficulty doing.
To address these problems, the Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has long promoted private sector development in the Region. In IIG’s interview with PM Barzani, the PM directly emphasizes this theme: “We want to move people away from [the public sector] and to make the private sector much more attractive and dynamic.” Under his direction, the KRG has taken several steps to make this goal a reality. Notably, in September 2013, PM Barzani launched Kurdistan Works (KW), the KRG’s latest project in this area.
KW is funded and operated by the KRG. It is designed to connect job seekers with employers in the private sector. KW aggregates job listings posted by local employers and recruitment agencies, presents them in a coherent manner, and connects applicants with active private sector employers. Moreover, the site is tailored to the particularities of Kurdistan. Many in the Region have never worked in the private sector, so KW explains the benefits of private sector employment. In addition, a large percentage of the local population has never applied to jobs in the private sector, so the site provides advice on the application process. To further develop the professional competencies that the private sector demands, the site directs users to training centers for courses in English language, computer competency, and other professional skills; KW also provides listings for internships and volunteer opportunities. Finally, the site has a section for members of the expatriate Kurdish diaspora that might be considering a move back to the Region. The section offers testimonials from other former expats that have returned, and an aggregation of informational resources for those considering a permanent or temporary return to the Region.
KW’s launch took place on September 4th at the 2013 Kurdistan Careers Fair in Erbil. The Fair was a public-private event organized by Kurdistan Careers, an organization that operates career fairs in the Region, and supported by the KRG. Estimates suggest that roughly 1,000 job seekers attended the Careers Fair, and met with representatives of nearly 45 local and international businesses. At the event, job seekers spoke to representatives in the private sector, learning what was offered to, and expected of, employees in private sector employment. The highlight of the event was an in-person address by PM Barzani to unveil KW.
In early September, before the site had even been officially launched, over 800 jobs had been posted. By October, the number had jumped to over 1,100. As such, KW appears to have been met with significant success. The site represents a simple, very effective means of addressing the larger problem of a necessary, massive shift of the Region’s labor market into the private sector. With any luck, Kurdistan Works will help to provide the younger half of the Region’s population something that few of their parents have ever experienced: productive and satisfying work in Kurdistan’s growing private sector.