Unemployment in Tunisia has continued to increase throughout the year, despite government assurances that steps would be taken to curb its spread following the countrywide protests in January of this year.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday,the General Director of the National Institute of Statistics (INS), Hedi Saidi confirmed that unemployment had reached 15.6 percent during the second quarter of this year, compared to 15.4 percent over the previous period. By Governorate, joblessness was at its highest in Gafsa where unemployment reached 28.2 percent, and its lowest in Zaghouan, where it was recorded at 10.5 percent.
In total, unemployment in Tunisia now represents 629,600 people. Of that total, 236,800 are reported to be graduates from higher education institutes, a slight decrease in the 240,100 unemployed graduates reported in the first quarter of 2016.
However, while overall graduate unemployment may have decreased marginally, the dramatic gulf that exists between the sexes remains. According to the statistics, 40 percent of all female graduates remain unemployed, compared to 19 percent of males.
In January of this year, violent protests over mass unemployment, chiefly among graduates, led to the imposition of a nightly curfew across Tunisia. After initially announcing that some 5,000 new positions would be created within the epicenter of the protest movement, Kasserine, the government clarified its position, stating that 5,000 places on training schemes would be made available to graduates.
Speaking to Tunisia Live, Statistician and Director of Sigma Conseil, Hassan Zargouni said, “The unemployment rate is directly linked to economic growth.” Moreover, the small pockets of private enterprise on which much of Tunisia relies is unable to hire on a scale that might truly impact national unemployment rates. “We need more than three or four persons to start creating jobs. We need a value-added (oriented) economy that targets unemployed graduates.” He added
Responding to the latest figures, Zargouni said that the current isolated protests and social tensions were unlikely to go away. However, responsibility for tackling the country’s rising unemployment rates remained with the government. “We need to have confidence for investors to invest. The new government must launch at least ten structured projects within the country’s internal regions in partnership with the private sector. This will help return confidence in the government and help boost the economy and decrease unemployment.”
Zaineb is a journalist in the Tunisia Live newsroom. She speaks Arabic, French and English.