Afghan women at a sewing training centre in Kabul Afghan women at a sewing training centre in Kabul 

Afghanistan has lost 500,000 jobs under Taliban

The ILO says women are particularly hit by job losses. This is likely to lead to an increase in child labour.

By Robin Gomes

More than half a million people are estimated to have lost or been pushed out of their jobs in Afghanistan in the 5 months under the Taliban rule, a United Nations agency said on Wednesday. 

“Following the change in administration in Afghanistan after the events of mid-August 2021, the ensuing crisis has paralyzed the economy and continues to have dire impacts on the labour market,” the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) said in its brief, “Employment prospects in Afghanistan: A rapid impact assessment.” It noted huge losses in jobs and working hours.


The ILO said, “Employment losses are expected to increase to nearly 700,000 by the second quarter of 2022, as enterprises struggle to stay viable and work becomes scarce. If the situation of women deteriorates further and outmigration intensifies, employment losses could increase to more than 900,000 jobs by the second quarter of 2022.”

Women’s employment levels are already extremely low by global standards, but ILO said that they are estimated to have decreased by 16 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, and they could fall by between 21 per cent and 28 per cent by mid-2022.

"The crisis in Afghanistan has made an already challenging situation for women workers even worse," said Ramin Behzad, Senior ILO Coordinator for Afghanistan. "Work in key sectors has dried up while newly imposed restrictions on women's participation in some economic areas are also hitting home."

He said, “The situation in Afghanistan is critical and immediate support for stabilization and recovery is required," adding, “While the priority is to meet immediate humanitarian needs, lasting and inclusive recovery will depend on people and communities having access to decent employment, livelihoods and basic services.”

Severely hit sectors

Hundreds of thousands of job losses have been seen in several key sectors which have been “devastated” since the takeover by Afghanistan’s de facto rulers, ILO said. These include agriculture, public administration, social services and construction, agriculture, and the civil service, where workers have either been laid off or left unpaid.

In construction, the sector’s 538,000 workers — of which 99 per cent are men — have suffered too, as major infrastructure projects have stalled.  Teachers and health workers have been deeply impacted by the lack of cash in the economy, amid falling international donor support.

As the crisis continues to unfold, ILO explained that the Taliban capture of Kabul on 15 August, following the withdrawal of international troops, threatened hard-fought development gains achieved over the past two decades. Domestic markets have been “widely disrupted,” the UN agency said, while productive economic activity has dropped, which has in turn driven up production costs.

At the same time, because Afghanistan’s reported $9.5 billion in assets have been frozen, “foreign aid, trade and investment... have been severely impacted,” ILO continued, pointing to cash shortages and restrictions on bank withdrawals, causing misery for businesses, workers and households.

Child labour

The lack of work also threatens to worsen child labour levels in Afghanistan, where only 40 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years old attend school. A large number of children were neither attending school nor working and nine per cent of this age group were involved in child labour. In absolute numbers, ILO noted that there are more than 770,000 boys and about 300,000 girls involved in child labour.

The problem is worst in rural areas — where 9.9 per cent or 839,000 children are much more likely to be in child labour compared to those in urban areas (2.9 per cent or 80,000).

To support the Afghan people this year, the UN’s top priorities are to provide lifesaving assistance, sustain essential services, and preserve social investments and community-level systems which are essential to meeting basic human needs.

In support of this strategy, the ILO has pledged to work with employers and trade unions to promote productive employment and decent work. The UN agency is focusing on four key areas: emergency employment services, employment-intensive investment, enterprise promotion and skills development, while respecting labour rights, gender equality, social dialogue, social protection, elimination of child labour and disability inclusion.  

Bleak global job scenario

Earlier on Monday, the ILO warned of a slow and uncertain recovery in employment across the globe, as the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on labour markets.  The global job market will take longer to recover than previously thought, with unemployment set to remain above pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2023.  The ILO estimates the equivalent of around 52 million fewer jobs in 2022 compared to pre-Covid levels, which amounts to about double its previous estimate from June 2021.(Source: ILO)

20 January 2022, 12:07