REFILE: Locals losing out to diaspora in Somalia’s employment market

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Somali workers sweep one of the main streets in Mogadishu. Photo courtesy ©Getty Images

For years, favoritism and employment discrimination have been a center of dispute in Somalia, with government officials have long overlooked grievances by locals who complained that they were denied of available employment opportunities, often taken by Somalis from diaspora.

By Judy Maina, judy.maina@alleastafrica.com

NAIROBI – Frustrations continue to grow in Somalia over Somali government’s employment scheme that many say plays blatant forms of favoritism in which Somalis from diaspora are generally given preferences over locals in employment selections, a scenario which continues to dash hopes of equal employment prospects for the war-weary local Somalis.

For years, favoritism and employment discrimination issues have been in the center of disputes in Somalia, with government officials have long overlooked grievances by locals who complained that they were being denied of available employment opportunities, often taken by Somalis from diaspora.

“We are victims of employment inequalities – Available jobs are now being taken by mostly unqualified and less experienced people from diaspora.” said Garaad Salad, a former media adviser of Somalia’s prime minister in an email sent to Alleastafrica.

According a recent study by the United Nations Development Program, the unemployment rate for youth aged 14 to 29 rose to 67 percent in Somalia—one of the highest rates in the world; women lose out more, with unemployment rates at 74%, compared to men at 61%;

Ministers or other government officials who have fallen into the trap of favoritism often excuse lesser quality of work by locals, an assertion repeatedly dismissed by local Somalis who also qualified for positions offered by international organizations, including the United Nations.

“Most of those diaspora men and women who are taking most of available positions have barely graduated from high schools, or let me say many haven’t even studied at schools.” Mr. Hersi, a long time government employee said.

He accused an unnamed minister in the Somali government of leading a large campaign which aims to have Somalis diaspora taken most prominent roles in the government’s public sectors, with the exclusion of many local graduates.

The development has met with anger in Somalia and beyond, as thousands took to the social media, warning that the latter would force many to take perilous journeys in the sea to reach Europe.

“Of course, when one assumes that his hard-earned education and qualifications would end in vain, he may think otherwise and even risk his life as a result.” Mr. Hersi said, responding to a question about why many educated Somalis continue to flee their country and travel across the shark-infested high seas to reach Europe.

In the meantime, some of the locals employed by the government have also expressed dissatisfaction at discrimination at workplaces in which diaspora employees are categorized in primary levels besides extra perks they enjoy, unlike their local peers whose hard works often go unnoticed and unrewarded.

“It works like, you (local) get paid for $300 per month while your diaspora colleague who holds the same position, and at some point unqualified collects $1000 plus bonuses and allowances a month.” said Ahmed Ashkir, a ministry employee in Mogadishu in an email to Alleastafrica.

Discussing about examples in which supervisors or ministers showed favoritism, Mr. Hersi said though some favoritism can appear subtly, yet officials often ask a human resources staff members to hire friends or relatives from diaspora into certain positions for which the persons are sometimes unqualified, or granting a career ladder promotion to a diaspora employee but not to local employees who performed at the same level.

“For locals, what will be hardest is finding a job in the first place, irrespective of the experience they gained during those years you worked, even for the government.” He said.

However, hopes are high for many local Somali job seekers who expressed optimism over the election of the new president Mohamed Abdullahi, who has the largest support base in the country to address the rising inequality in employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, these concerns reflect challenges facing Somali jobseekers or public sector employees who at times go for months without salaries.

In Somalia, the Civil service commission barely exists in the country where state workers often complain of abuses by their superiors; with many others often avoid expressing their discontents in public over fears of dismissals, leaving their fate at the mercy of their bosses.

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