BAGHDAD — In Iraq’s struggling economy, more young people are trying creative ways to make money.
Many young Iraqis have traditionally sought jobs in the public sector, but after months of delays after the government passed the 2023 budget on Monday, ministries are reluctant to hire them on an interim basis. Moreover, the dinar has fallen against the US dollar since Mohammed Shi’a al-Sudani’s government took office last October. Higher oil prices have been a boost in 2022, but corruption remains rampant and the war in Ukraine has led to higher food prices.
Ahmed Al-Amir, now a 28-year-old social media star from Baghdad, graduated from the University of Baghdad in 2016 with a degree in Economics, but was unable to find a job in his field.
“There are not enough job opportunities for young people in Iraq. This is why we see young people go out and protest,” Amir told Al-Monitor. “I tried to get a job in a bank or a private company. The first question they ask is if I have work experience. This question destroys Iraqi youth. We are fresh graduates.”
Amir started a restaurant but failed. Later he worked as a taxi driver. This was his one of many jobs he took that had nothing to do with the economy. In 2021, he joined thousands of other Iraqis in their desperate journey to Lithuania in hopes of entering the European Union illegally via Poland.
“In Iraq, all roads and opportunities were closed,” he said. “I thought immigration was the only way to find a future.”
It was in Lithuania that Amir first came up with the idea for a TikTok channel, which he called Iraqi Day in Lithuania. Combining ad revenue from his Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok pages, Amir earns about $2,000 a month.
But Amir’s success has been exceptional, and social media users in Iraq face an uphill battle when it comes to monetizing their channel. For example, according to some metrics, YouTube pays Iraqi YouTubers a lot less per 1,000 views of him than in other countries.
There are also structural issues. Internet speeds in areas controlled by the Iraqi federal government are relatively slow, often not exceeding 3G rates.
Ali Adel streams video games online and earns about $500 a month through donations from fans and sponsorships from Iraqi tech stores. He moved from Baghdad to Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan region. He said internet speed is relatively fast.
“We tried everything we could to have good internet for online video games in Baghdad, but we failed,” Adel told Al-Monitor. Kurdistan speeds are often 4G LTE or better.
But Adel said Iraqis who engage in competitive video games and esports face a disadvantage. For some reason, the delay in communication between gamers makes things unfair,” he said.
Adele is grateful to be able to make a living from video games. For example, his cousin paid bribes to secure government jobs, but never got them. is.
Adel said internet providers in the Iraqi federation should cut prices and invest in fiber optic cables like those seen in the Kurdistan region.
Other young Iraqis are taking advantage of the relative lack of development in certain areas to create opportunities for themselves. For example, to address the shortage of quality English language teaching institutions in the country, Hardan al-Saray will establish his Harden Center in Baghdad in 2022. They started with just 10 of his English students but now have about 250 students. He learned English in school, but when he was forced to stay home after an attempted kidnapping of his brother, he improved his English skills by talking to people around the world online. . He now speaks the language fluently.
Saray worked another job for five years to save money to start her lab. Prior to his opening, he had to pay the Department of Education his $5,000.
However, local authorities subsequently turned him down for money. According to Saray, such bribes speak to a country that does not support young entrepreneurs.
“The law is old and outdated and is here to be managed,” Sarai told Almonitor.
The Iraqi economy is expected to continue its upward battle for the time being. The country has experienced bitter political divisions, including a Shiite majority, and it remains to be seen what Foreign Minister Huad Hussein’s visit to Washington last month will bring. According to Saray, overcoming the lack of opportunity in the country will take time.
“Millions of people like me try to find a job for themselves, but very few are lucky enough to achieve it,” he said. “Perseverance is key for young people to start projects in Iraq.”