To the New Unemployed in Bahrain, This is the Story of National Employment Projects over the Past 18 Years

2019-03-01 - 2:13 p

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): So, this is what resulted from the meetings of the heads of government Khalifa bin Salman and his brother's grandson Salman bin Hamad. After weeks of announced public discontent due to government and private sector policies marginalizing Bahrainis and favoring foreigners in employment, the government announced cold and redundant steps to confront this discontent.

The project consists of 4 initiatives: re-registering unemployed citizens, increasing the amount of unemployment benefits and duration of the subsidies and compensation to 9 months, increasing the compensation of the dismissed to be a maximum of 1,000 dinars, and also raising the minimum compensation to 200 dinars.

The third initiative is to raise the fees for the optional parallel Bahrainization system permits imposed on establishments that have not reached the required Bahrainization percentages, from 300 to 500 dinars, in addition to raising the fees imposed on flexible employment permits for foreigners from 200 to 500 dinars with a monthly fee of 30 dinars. However, the fourth initiative is to redesign the training and pay support program in the Tamkeen Fund, i.e. improve support for enterprises that employ Bahrainis, by supporting their salaries.

It may be difficult to count the national employment projects launched by the government, but it is a tale that must be known by the new unemployed Bahrainis who were at a young age when the reign of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa began.

Exactly 18 years ago, on May 1, 2001, the Minister of Labour, Abdulnabi Al-Shaala, announced that Bahrain was launching a employment and training project, as the prince of the country at the time, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, ordered the disbursement of sums of cash to the unemployed Bahrainis, with continued government aid for 6 months until the unemployed secures a job or enrolls in training programs, and according to the program plan, the unemployed married citizens were allocated 100 dinars per month, while the single citizens were allocated 70 dinars per month.

Marking Labor Day, Al-Shaala said the government aims at creating 4,000 job opportunities in two years.

Everyone who witnessed that period knows how the 25 million dinars were spent in a blink of an eye. The project disappeared into thin air, while unemployment remained.

In November 2005, the then Minister of Labour, Majeed Al-Alawi, started the National Employment Project, with high hopes. The project's budget was also huge, 30 million dinars ($80 million), but Al-Alawi said after a meeting with the then President of the civil Service Bureau, Abdullah bin Khalifa bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, the officials of the National Employment Project will have the right to employ in the government sector as well as the private sector.

This raised the hopes of Bahrainis, but two years later (2007), the Bahraini unemployed recorded their complaints in Al-Wasat about the project. Some said that it was completely unsuccessful, while the spokesman for the then "unemployed and low-wage committee" Nader Al-Salatina mentioned the reasons that prevented registering many of the unemployed in the project and taking part in it.

In January 2008, in the era of Minister Majeed Al-Alawi, the university graduates' rehabilitation and employment project was launched, backed by the Crown prince. Al-Alawi said the project hired 1,800 unemployed graduates and was preparing to hire another 2,000.

The number didn't stop at 1,800, but reached 1,912 university graduates of both sexes who were actually employed, but the end was only unfortunate. After eight years of employment, the 1,912 graduates were informed that their contracts ended with their employers and that they had to accept unemployment again.

The budget for hiring the unemployed graduates was 15 million dinars. Journalist Hani Al-Fardan noted in a detailed article the tragic failure of what was known as the 1,912 list of unemployed university graduates. He says "8 years later...a number of them are still unable to settle in their jobs, or are still working with temporary contracts, or have been dismissed after the suspension of financial support, provided by the Tamkeen Fund, which was offered to companies in return for their employment."

Al-Fardan goes on to explain that this summarizes the unemployment situation: "This group is from the 1,912 list, which represents the core of the unemployment crisis and problem that the state could not solve, although seven years have passed and millions have been spent. Millions have been wasted and this file has not been closed yet."

The story did not end here. On June 14, 2014, Labor Minister Jameel Humaidan inaugurated the Employment and Rehabilitation Project for Bahrainis 2.0, which aimed at hiring and training 10,000 unemployed citizens, and the Ministry asked the unemployed to register again.

In 2017, Labor Minister Jameel Humaidan announced the launch of the supplementary project for the rehabilitation and employment of university graduates, which would be aimed at employing 2,500 university graduates this time, at a cost of 8 million dinars. There is no need to mention the outcomes of this project and its eight million dinars, as the reality of Bahrain's graduates now sums it all up.

In 2005, the percentage of foreign employees in the government was 9%, as Minister Majeed Al-Alawi announced at that time. However, today it reached 16%. MP Ahmed Salloum says that the percentage of foreigners in the government increased to 28% after the implementation of the voluntary retirement program for Bahrainis, these numbers tell how things actually are on the ground, and what the real orientations of the government are, taking away their empty slogans and promises and official statements.

المؤتمر الصحافي لإعلان مشروع التوظيف الجديد 25 فبراير 2019


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