Unemployment Crisis and Dark Outlook in Afghanistan

By: Basit Ahmad Hafizi

It has been nearly two years since the fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a government established in spite of the numerous challenges and assistance from the international community. Following the events of September 11th, the last two decades have seen major advancements in freedom of speech and the press, democracy, human rights, and a government focused on the needs of the youth.

Despite the numerous challenges and issues present in the system, Afghanistan was gradually progressing towards economic prosperity. The establishment of airways to connect farmers to international markets, industrial parks in various provinces, regional agreements to facilitate the export of goods, the private sector, the operations of institutions and non-profit organizations, and economic growth had all contributed to an increase in employment rates.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Afghanistan has experienced high growth and low inflation in the last two decades compared to its two neighboring countries, Iran and Pakistan. Statistics show that Afghanistan’s economic growth between 2003 and 2020 was more than 6.1 percent, while Iran’s was 1.6 percent and Pakistan’s was 4.2 percent.

Over the past year and seven months, the Taliban’s rise to power has caused immense hardship for Afghans. After the Taliban took control of Kabul, humanitarian aid was cut off, leaving millions of Afghans unable to provide for their basic needs. Now, the majority of the population lives in poverty, with 97% of Afghans facing poverty and hunger, largely due to unemployment, according to reports from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA).

Poverty and unemployment are closely linked. An increase in the unemployment rate leads to an increase in poverty. The Taliban’s rise to power, along with the restrictions they imposed, the violation of human rights, the open discrimination against half of the population, and the presence of terrorist groups such as ISIS, have caused Afghanistan to experience a deep economic crisis, poverty, and unemployment. According to reports, more than 500,000 jobs were lost in the first three months of their rule. While unemployment is a global issue, its rapid growth in Afghanistan is so severe that it is indescribable, and its effects are extremely distressing.

Unemployment Crisis in Afghanistan

Unemployment is one of the most concerning economic issues in the country. This problem is largely due to political circumstances. Examining the rate of unemployment is a reliable indicator of the state of the nation’s economy. When unemployment surpasses a certain threshold, it is evident that various aspects of the economy have been affected by inefficiency and malfunction.

Factors Contributing to Unemployment in Afghanistan

1- The Taliban Takeover and Its Impact on the Political System

Good governance necessitates a just legal framework that is applied without bias. Additionally, safeguarding human rights, particularly those of minorities, is a fundamental requirement within the context of sound governance.

Following the transformation of the political system, all the accomplishments of the past two decades have been undone. The various ethnic groups of Afghanistan are not accepted in the Taliban system. Freedom of speech and press have been abolished. Women’s activities in the cultural, social, political, and economic spheres have been forbidden, and their emancipation has been denied. Even in the key and professional positions of the government are the Taliban themselves with no prior experience.

2- The Halt on International Humanitarian Aid

Following the Taliban’s takeover and their implementation of discriminatory policies against half of the population, international humanitarian aid has been discontinued. For the past two decades, this aid had been part of Afghanistan’s regular and development budgets, so the cessation of this funding has had a considerable impact on employment opportunities in the country’s labor market.

3- The Demise of Development Institutions

In 2002, the transition of the Afghan government saw a significant expansion of development activities by foreign institutions in the country, creating a more favorable work environment for many people in various provinces. However, the re-emergence of the Taliban and the ban on women’s economic activities has caused these development institutions to cease operations, leading to a greater scope of unemployment in Afghanistan.

4- Brain Drain

The educated members of a society provide an effective means of progress. The success and accomplishments of developed countries are largely attributed to the hard work of their educated youth. However, the Taliban‘s presence in Afghanistan has caused a decrease in the number of educated people in government, leading to brain drain and unemployment. Furthermore, the specialized and professional positions that require skilled and educated people have been filled by Taliban fighters, who lack the necessary knowledge, exacerbating the unemployment crisis in Afghanistan.

Likewise, investors have left the country due to personal and economic insecurity. According to the latest statistics provided by the directors of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Investment, more than 800 domestic investors have left Afghanistan in the past year, relocating to neighboring countries. This exodus of human capital has caused a large surge in unemployment in the country‘s economy. When investment in job opportunities and production decreases, poverty and unemployment are among the unfortunate results.

5- Limiting People’s Activities

After the Taliban came to power, women in this country faced extensive restrictions, leaving them in an unfavorable situation. They are not allowed to work and are deprived of education. Over the past two years, the Taliban government has failed to provide even the most basic social services. In contrast, violations of human rights, the disappearance of previous government employees, the arrest of women, doortodoor searches, and the suppression of minorities have all increased, in contravention of both human and Islamic rights.

The Taliban‘s alteration of their governance approach has had farreaching economic, political, social, and cultural repercussions, leading to a severe crisis in the country today.

Given the sectarian nature of the Taliban and the psychological impact of their past on society, their presence in Kabul and their particular policies have necessitated a shift in the functions of many institutions and organizations.

The Taliban‘s imposition of various restrictions on people, particularly women, has had a detrimental effect on the country‘s economy. Furthermore, the displacement of investors and the decrease in both foreign and domestic investments in the country have been major contributors to the proliferation of poverty and unemployment. Consequently, the economic situation of the people is deteriorating, and it is anticipated that the number of people requiring aid will rise. It appears that the Taliban‘s unwillingness to form a comprehensive government and their restrictions on women‘s employment will be detrimental to the economy, and humanitarian aid will not be sufficient to meet the needs of the population.

At present, it appears that the world is engaging with the Taliban in an inconsistent and conservative manner. The gradual transfer of embassies and consulates to the Taliban indicates that political interests are being prioritized over moral values in relation to Afghanistan. The lack of a proper plan by the international community to address the issues of poverty and unemployment in Afghanistan, combined with the confusion surrounding the Taliban’s policies, has resulted in more direct methods that enable the Taliban emirate to progress with fewer impediments. Consequently, the poverty and unemployment crisis will worsen, and groups such as women and children will be in a more precarious situation.

Given the discussed facts, poverty and unemployment in Afghanistan will continue to increase, leading to a further deterioration of the country‘s economic situation. As long as this crisis persists, the issue of poverty and unemployment will remain the primary focus of reports on human rights institutions.