Saied axes job creation law sparking protests across Tunisia

Tunisia President Saied axes job creation law sparking nationwide protests
3 min read
22 November, 2021
Tunisian President Kais Saied has revoked Law 38 - which would have supported the unemployed into public-sector jobs sparking protests across the country.
Thousands of unemployed degree holders across Tunisia are protesting President Saied's decision to revoke Law 38 [AFP via Getty]

Unemployed university graduates across Tunisia expressed their outrage at President Kais Saied's decision to revoke a law that provided work opportunities for Tunisians.

Law 38 from 2020 allowed exceptional provisions to be made in providing public sector jobs for the long-term unemployed.

News that the job creation programme was axed sparked protests in Kasserine, Jendouba, Sidi Bouzid and Gafsa with unemployed graduates threatening to take the issue to international courts.

These actions followed a meeting between Saied and a delegation of unemployed Tunisians. The president dismissed Law 38, proposing that the issue of employment be dealt with by the private sector.

A member of the regional coordinating body "Employment is my right" in Kasserine, Faiza Alaqi told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister publication Al-Araby Al-Jadeed: "There is a sit-in demonstration in front of the city's municipal offices, and 12 protestors began a hunger strike on Saturday evening.

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"We are ready to escalate the struggle in order to achieve our demand - employment," she said. Alaqi added that the protesters rejected the president's suggestion of working for private companies.

Abdullatif Marghami, in Oued Melliz, Jendouba province stated that the president abandoning Law 38 was a huge blow to the unemployed and there were people who would "seriously contemplate suicide" as a result of the news.

"Twenty-nine thousand over-35s have been unemployed for over 10 years, according to employment offices' statistics. The figure of unemployed overall is far higher," Marghami said.

"They have no support and there are shameful cases - like the graduate who spent six years studying and is now begging under a mosque wall, or the young graduate living with her elderly mother in Sidi Bouzid who relies on the generosity of neighbours to survive."

Marghami emphasised that the president was treating young people who had families to support with contempt. Many had struggled through difficult circumstances and poverty to obtain their degrees.

"The claim that the public sector can't absorb more workers is false. For example,  3,000 teachers will be retiring soon," he said.

Ultimatum given by Tataouine protesters movement ends

Saied's decision came as the ultimatum given to the government by protesters from Tataouine, a city situated in an oil-rich area of the south, ended on Monday.

The self-described "Kamour Sit-in Coordination" group threatened to launch a new wave of protests and block roads leading to oil fields if the government did not meet their demands for employment.

The group has been leading protests demanding that the authorities make good on a 2017 promise to provide jobs in the resource-rich area.

For weeks, protesters have blocked roads and have sought to prevent trucks from delivering supplies to the remote Kamour pumping station, a key site for Tunisia's small oil industry.

Southern Tunisia is one of the country's most marginalised areas, with above average unemployment, failing infrastructure, and a stunted private sector.