Rapid Market Assessment in Heet District, Anbar Governorate (August 2021) – Iraq

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introduction

Decades of recurring violence and political instability in Iraq have resulted in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Populations living in the governorates affected by the 2014-2018 conflict with the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIS) have faced disruption in all aspects of their lives, including access to health care, education and livelihoods. Since 2020, moreover,
The Iraqi economy has suffered the consequences of a double crisis: an unprecedented drop in oil export revenues coupled with the devastating impact of public health measures imposed by the government to control the spread of COVID-19. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of people in need of livelihood assistance.

Anbar governorate is among the hardest hit by the 2014-2018 conflict. Once known as Iraq’s breadbasket, the country’s largest governorate has seen much of its infrastructure destroyed.
Agriculture, in particular, has been used by ISIS 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 the district of Heet. The main objective of the assessment is to inform the design of specific livelihood activities to be implemented by the JRC under the project “Sustainable livelihoods and economic recovery in Heet, Anbar, Iraq”.

Workforce

A total of 396 community members participated in the Household Survey (HH) conducted by the CCR in five sub-districts of Heet Governorate, namely Heet Center, Baghdadi, Al Furat, Kubaisa and Al Mohamadi.
The majority of respondents were men (83%).

Although most households in the sample relied on income obtained through work, almost all households had at least one member over the age of 18 who was unemployed at the time of data collection. Employment affected men and women in sampled households alike and was mainly caused by a lack of employment opportunities. However, the unemployed women in the sample would often not be part of the labor force at all. This is due to the tribal nature of society in Heet and the conservative standards by which women are still primarily seen as housewives.

The key factors for employability were available capital, work experience and skills. However, in the case of women, the availability of more jobs considered suitable for women (ie jobs that are not mixed) was of particular importance.

Vocational training opportunities were largely unavailable in Heet district, with the closest government-run vocational training center located in Ramadi district. However, a few private institutions would offer a limited variety of professional programs. However, most of the respondents with vocational training did not find a job after completing their training. This indicates weak links between the training programs available and the skills sought in the labor market.

Market opportunities

In the private sector of Heet District, the agriculture, retail and construction sector employs the largest number of people. For women, however, most of the jobs available are in beauty salons or tailoring stores.

To obtain information on existing businesses in the Heet district, CCR conducted a market observation survey targeting a total of 286 businesses in four sub-districts. In general, the companies surveyed were small in terms of the number of employees. However, businesses represented a variety of sectors, confirming the relatively diverse availability of markets and stores where community members can source the goods and services they need.

Respondents to the HH survey and participants in the qualitative interviews showed a strong desire to open their business. The lack of capital has been described as the main obstacle to entrepreneurship. This is probably due in part to the fact that microfinance opportunities in Heet are scarce.

Finally, vocational training and financial support were identified as the types of support most likely to increase respondents’ chances of finding a job / starting a business.

Recommendations:

▪ Design inclusive technical and vocational training and programs with particular emphasis on the agriculture, retail and construction sectors in collaboration with relevant stakeholders from the private and public sectors. Incorporate on-the-job training into every training program.

▪ Develop placement mechanisms in collaboration with relevant stakeholders and regional government representatives, putting trainees in touch with existing businesses in the region.

▪ Organize awareness campaigns promoting the participation of women in the labor market. Offer counseling sessions to women participating in project activities and their families, with emphasis on the benefits of female employment.

▪ Create inclusive micro-entrepreneurship programs linked to start-up funding, with particular emphasis on women interested in entrepreneurship.

▪ Support the creation of a limited number of peer-to-peer lending groups to provide loans to start-ups. Ensure a good follow-up of the activity to ensure the commitment of the participants. Such lending models, including Care International’s village savings and loan associations and Oxfam’s rotating savings and loan associations, could be linked to existing financial institutions to improve their sustainability.


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