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Afghan Minister Warns of Effects of Massive Unemployment - 2002-03-19

Afghanistan's minister of labor is warning that his country will not achieve political stability until its massive unemployment problem is solved. The minister, Mir Wais Sadeq, issued his statement in Geneva, where he is seeking help from the International Labor Organization.

Mir Wais Sadeq has been labor minister in Afghanistan's interim government for three months. Yet, he says, he has received no money to create jobs either from the national government or international donors. He says Afghanistan also desperately needs international support in training unskilled workers.

"We have people that did not go to school for 20 years," he said. "We have many, many people as refugees who have no education and many armed people that did not know anything except how to use their arms. And, finally women, we have many women [who] did not go to school neither inside nor outside Afghanistan."

But the Afghan labor minister has gotten the support of the International Labor Organization, which plans to set up an office in the capital, Kabul. And ILO officials are appealing for nearly $20 million to promote seven work and training projects in Afghanistan.

A labor expert with the organization, Eugenia Date-Bah, says it plans to use some of its own money to get four of these projects started immediately. "We will start some of the activities like capacity building in the Ministry of Labor," she said. "[We are offering] training for some of the Afghan refugees in the camps. These are the people who, in the immediate future, will return to Afghanistan. We are also hoping that we will be able to have some micro-finance activities to help some of the unemployed people to start their own self-employment activities, small-scale enterprise activities."

Mr. Sadeq says the international community has pledged $4.5 billion to reconstruct and rehabilitate Afghanistan. He says this money, once it starts coming in, will put a lot of people to work.

And a lot of people need work in Afghanistan. The government estimates as many as two million people have no jobs in Afghanistan, and it predicts this number will get even higher as more refugees return to their homes.