Decades of recurring violence and political instability in Iraq have resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Populations living in governorates affected by the 2014-2018 conflict with the Islamic State In Levant (ISIL) have been faced with disruptions of all aspects of their lives, including access to health care, education, and livelihood opportunities. Since 2020, moreover,
Iraq’s economy has suffered the implications of a double crisis: an unprecedented decrease in oil export revenues coupled with the devastating impact of the public health measures imposed by the government to control the spread of COVID-19. This has resulted in a considerable increase in the number of people in need of livelihood assistance.
Anbar governorate is among the most heavily affected by the 2014-2018 conflict. Once known as the breadbasket of Iraq, the country’s largest governorate has seen its infrastructure largely destroyed.
Agriculture, in particular, was used by IS as a weapon of war, causing immense damage to the sector.
In August 2021, Caritas Czech Republic (CCR) commissioned Optimum Analysis to write this Rapid Market Assessment report based on data collected by CCR from community members, business owners and stakeholders in Heet district. The main objective of the assessment is to feed into the design of the specific livelihood activities that are to be implemented by CCR under the “Sustainable Livelihoods & Economic Recovery in Heet, Anbar, Iraq” project.
The Labour Force
In total, 396 community members participated in the household (HH) survey conducted by CCR in five subdistricts in Heet governorate, namely Heet Center, Baghdadi, Al Furat, Kubaisa, and Al Mohamadi.
The majority of respondents were men (83%).
Although most HHs in the sample relied on income obtained through work, nearly all HHs had at least one member over 18 years old who was unemployed at the time of data collection. Employment affected men and women of the sampled HHs similarly and was primarily caused by a lack of job opportunities. However, unemployed women in the sample would often not be part of the labour force at all. This is due to the tribal nature of the society in Heet and conservative norms according to which women are still primarily perceived as homemakers.
Key factors for employability were available capital, work experience, and qualifications. However, in the case of women, the availability of more jobs considered suitable for women (i.e. jobs that are not mixed gender) was of particular importance.
Vocational training opportunities were largely unavailable in Heet district, with the closest government-run vocational training centre being located in Ramadi district. A few private institutions, however, were reported to offer a limited variety of vocational programmes. However, most of the respondents who had received vocational training did not find employment upon completion of their training. This indicates weak links between the available training programs and the sought-after skills in the labour market.
Within the private sector in Heet district, the agriculture, retail, and construction sector employ the highest number of people. For women, however, most of the available jobs are in beauty salons or sewing stores.
To acquire information on the existing businesses in Heet district, CCR conducted a market observation survey targeting a total of 286 businesses in four subdistricts. Generally, the surveyed businesses were small in terms of the number of employed staff. However, the businesses represented a variety of sectors, confirming the relatively diverse availability of markets and stores where community members can procure the goods and services they need.
Both respondents of the HH survey and participants in qualitative interviews displayed a high willingness to open their businesses. Lack of capital was described as the main obstacle to entrepreneurship. This is likely in part because microfinance opportunities in Heet are scarce.
Lastly, vocational training and finance support were identified as the types of support most likely to increase respondents’ chances of becoming employed/starting a business.
▪ Design inclusive Technical and Vocational Training and Programmes with a special focus on the agriculture, retail, and construction sectors in collaboration with relevant stakeholders from the private and public sectors. Integrate on-the-job training into each training programme.
▪ Develop job placement mechanisms in collaboration with relevant stakeholders and regional government representatives, linking trainees with existing businesses in the area.
▪ Organise awareness campaigns promoting women's participation in the labour market. Provide counselling sessions to women participating in project activities and their families, focusing on the benefits of women’s employment.
▪ Create inclusive micro-entrepreneurship programs linked with start-up financing, placing particular focus on women interested in entrepreneurship.
▪ Support the establishment of a limited number of peer-to-peer lending groups to provide loans for start-ups. Ensure proper oversight of the activity to ensure the commitment of participants. Such lending models, including Care International’s Village Savings and Loan Associations and Oxfam’s Rotational Savings and Credit Associations, could be linked with existing financial institutions to improve their sustainability