This story was written by the ILO Newsroom For official ILO statements and speeches, please visit our “Statements and Speeches” section.

Employment Services Centres in Afghanistan In Afghanistan, "Men who work, have no time to make war"

An estimated 30 per cent of the Afghan work force is unemployed. In addition, approximately 100,000 ex-combatants are about to enter the labour market and hundreds of thousands of refugees are returning home. Though a vast majority (70-80 per cent) of them will return to their villages and find a livelihood in the agricultural sector, a considerable number will remain in urban areas and seek employment there, many without formal education and training. In response to the need for labour market services, the ILO in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is establishing Employment Services Centres in Afghanistan.

Article | 30 March 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan – Mohammad, a 37-year-old ex-combatant, used to fight in the war. Now, he is fighting for a future.

"There are many jobs available in the construction sector, and when I was offered a job on a construction site in Kabul through the Employment Service Centre after my training, I decided to stay", he said. "In this way, I can better support my family by sending money to my village and later, maybe I can help improve the houses there with my knowledge as an electrician. Perhaps I can even start my own business."

Many entrepreneurs in the urban areas say that they could increase their business activities if they were able to find skilled and semi-skilled staff. A recent ILO project is thus focussing on providing information to jobseekers about training opportunities through vocational guidance and counselling. Upon conclusion of training, it assists them with job placement. It will also provide links to micro-finance and business development services for those who prefer to look at self-employment opportunities.

But there are also many qualified jobseekers, in the process of returning from neighbouring countries, looking for employment opportunities.

Fareed, a 28-year-old returnee from Pakistan says: "I was in Pakistan for almost 20 years and received a good education, I even went to university and graduated with a B.A. in Business Administration. When I came back to Kabul, I did not know how to find a job, because we have no more friends and family in Kabul. Then I heard about the Employment Service Centre and I got a job with a NGO as Finance Officer. Now I can bring back the rest of my family and support them."

The implementing partner of the project is the Association of Experts in the Field of Migration and Development Co-operation (AGEF). The project is designed to contribute to the reduction of poverty and to the social and economic development of Afghanistan by providing Afghans with access to improved labour market services at national and provincial levels.

The project's main objectives are the establishment of Employment Services Centres (ESCs) in Kabul and in nine provinces; to build capacity at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to ensure that there are well-trained staff in the employment centres who are able to provide specific advisory and labour market services to assist both employers and jobseekers; to refer jobseekers to identified training and employment opportunities, whether with major projects, NGOs or private sector employers; and to provide jobseekers with relevant and up-to-date advice and assistance on vocational training and self-employment opportunities available in their local labour market.

In establishing the ESCs, the project is also targeting women and people with disabilities. To help them, two ESC branch offices have been recently opened at the Ministry of Woman Affairs and the Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled. The ESC Project, which began in mid-2004, will continue at least until 2006.

Presently, the project is establishing ESCs in Kabul and four provinces, including Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kunduz and Jalalabad. ESCs in these four provinces are expected to begin their operation in January 2005. Later in 2005, ESC offices will be opening in Kandahar, Gardez, Bamyan and Jawzjan and another province to be determined. The project will assist the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in upgrading their office infrastructure through the provision of office equipment including computers for the job database, internet/communication facilities and improved electricity supply through generators.

Staff in all of the ESCs will receive ongoing training in matching jobseekers with training and employment opportunities, as well as conducting labour market research. The work of the ESCs will make an ongoing and valuable contribution to the development of the labour market in Afghanistan and to the lives of Afghans.

At the opening ceremony of the ESC in Kabul, Noor Ahmed Qarqeen, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, said: "One of our main problems is high unemployment. We must address this problem and I am confident, that the Employment Service can make a very valuable contribution in matching jobseekers with the employment opportunities that are available in the process of reconstructing Afghanistan. Men who work, have no time to make war."