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Feb. 14. 2004

Opening of Baghdad Unemployment Center

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Baghdad unemployment center located beside the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 29.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is responsible for training, job opportunities and social welfare for all Iraqis.

With the reconstruction of the ministry's building complete, the unemployment office operates more effectively and helps people looking for jobs.

This office is the first official establishment allowing Iraqis the opportunity to seek employment. It also provides them the opportunity to improve their English, computer and business skills. The ministry is planning to open two more offices by March in other locations in the city.

The reconstruction of the new ministry building cost more than $800,000.

"The significance of this building is that this ministry is responsible for all the Iraqi citizens including the children, and this facility gives them a place to begin, a place to assist them with employment and the technology to improve," said Sami Azer AL Magon, the minister of Labor and Social Affairs.

The ministry has many plans for future operations and benefits for Iraqis, he said.

During the summer, the ministry was seeing and placing approximately 1,000 people a day in full-time, part-time and temporary jobs throughout Baghdad. With the onset of colder weather, the unemployment office helps about 500 people a day. It still has more jobs available than it can fill daily.

The ministry also recognizes the need to pay unemployment benefits to jobless citizens until they have the opportunity to find a job and earn enough money to support a family.

The plan for social welfare does not mean the person will be able to remain stable and support his family without working, Magon said. The benefits will last between six months and one year. After that, the recipient should be employed or furthering his education.

According to the ministry's statistical information, the average rate of unemployment in Baghdad this time last year was around 59 percent. Over the next few years, the ministry plans to significantly reduce that figure, Magon said.

Magon said the ministry will help people find suitable jobs but will also provide them with training to increase their ability to remain in an upwardly mobile career field of their choosing.

The center also has plans for future entrepreneurs who desire small businesses in and around town. Once the local banks become more stable, there will be contracts drawn for low-interest loans to help facilitate new businesses.

"We are planning to involve local banks to assist small business with getting started and becoming productive," Magon said. "This will enable the people to increase their income."

This new facility sends a strong message to the rest of Iraq that the citizens of Baghdad are steadily regaining control of their lives and are boldly moving forward to join the rest of the world community in peace and prosperity, Magon said.


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