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Inside Afghanistan: Job Market Outlook Bleakest on Record

Inside Afghanistan: Job Market Outlook Bleakest on Record

by Kristjan Archer

Story Highlights

  • Almost half of the population is out of the workforce
  • Nearly a third of Afghanistan's workforce is unemployed
  • Unemployment soars among young people and women

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As they cast their ballots in Afghanistan's presidential election at the end of the month -- barring a cancelation -- Afghans may be thinking of the job opportunities that many of them don't have.

Gallup data, collected since 2010 in Afghanistan, offer insight into what has happened to Afghans' job prospects during the past violent decade that has torn the nation apart.

Quick Summary: The majority of Afghanistan's population is younger than age 24 and much of this labor force enters the job market with little education. Related to the volatility in the region and limited resources, job creation has been outpaced by population growth, making good jobs a rarity. Labor force participation for younger women is low due to inactivity and unemployment; in addition, young Afghans have high unemployment rates and many are in neither employment education nor training.

Unemployment Ties Record-High: In 2018, nearly half of Afghans (49%) were not in the workforce -- meaning they were not employed within the past seven days, are not looking for work and/or are not available to start work. Even more Afghans between the ages of 15 and 29 (52%) and women (80%) were out of the workforce. These percentages are not atypical for the past decade in Afghanistan.

However, the 30% of Afghans in the workforce who were unemployed last year ties the previous record high set in 2015. Afghanistan also had the dubious honor of ranking among the top five countries with the highest unemployment rates in the world in 2018, along with Haiti, Yemen, Botswana and the Palestinian Territories.

Line graph. Unemployment rates among Afghans in the workforce since 2010.

Unemployment Among Youth Tops 40% for First Time: In 2018, more than four in 10 Afghans (43%) in the workforce between the ages of 15 and 29 were out of work. The number of young people out of work has more than tripled over the past decade, but last year stood out because it marked the first time that the percentage has topped 40%.

Line graph. Unemployment rates among Afghans in the workforce since 2010, by age group.

Unemployment Among Afghan Women Soars to New High: Unemployment among the relatively few women in the workforce in Afghanistan hit 67% -- the highest ever recorded. The previous high was 50% in 2012.

What may have forced many women out of their jobs, and indeed out of the workforce, are the many challenges Afghan women face in the workplace, such as sexual and domestic violence and discrimination.

An example of this extreme violence toward women at work would be the deadly attack the Taliban launched against the head office of Counterpart International, which was retaliation for the "intermixing" of women and men working at the site and its promotion of "western activities."

Line graph. Unemployment rates among Afghans in the workforce since 2010, by gender.

Job Market Outlook Worst on Record: Just 8% of Afghans in 2018 said it was a good time to find a job where they live -- a new low -- and 74% said it was a bad time to find a job. Both men and women were pessimistic about the job outlook, but a large share of women (28%) said they didn't have an opinion -- which speaks to their lack of participation in the job market.

Line graph. Perceptions of the job market in Afghanistan since 2010.

Implications: While the deal in principle for peace between the Taliban and the U.S. is still in the pipeline, until economic opportunity arrives in Afghanistan, there are still tough times ahead for all citizens.

With the majority of Afghanistan's population younger than age 24, it is crucial for whoever is elected into office to focus on creating employment opportunities for the youth of the country. With jobs comes a sense of purpose, which young people will need in the uncertain times ahead. Likewise, Afghanistan's next leader will need to look out for the country's women.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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