Magharebia (Washington DC)

25 February 2014

Tunisia: Jobless Tunisians May See Stipends

Tunis — Nearly a year after Tunisian lawmakers first discussed a bill to assists jobless youth, the plan to create a national unemployment fund is gaining traction.

The Tunisian National Constituent Assembly (ANC) is preparing to review the draft bill introduced last April. Assembly member Samia Abbou said last week that the time had come to pass the measure.

After the ratification of the draft electoral law, the unemployment fund will become the priority, she told the Tunisian Union of Young Workers (UTJT) on February 17th.

"We want it to have a large funding pool. Everyone should contribute to it because it will expand the prospects for job seekers," the ANC member said at the UTJT meeting. "This will help boost the economy in the country," she said.

The fund would grant stipends for all unemployed Tunisians. It would be subsidised by deducting a nominal amount (no more than 1 dinar) from the wages of public and private sector employees.

Everything is there for the measure to pass, argued UTJT Secretary-General Chedli Hammas, except the "political willingness".

"All we want today is for the law to be ratified, which will benefit more than 800 thousand unemployed, either through the creation of major projects or by assigning a stipend to unemployed people seeking work," he said.

According to Hammas, the initiative would enable nearly 800,000 jobless Tunisians -including some 300,000 with degrees - to "contribute to the reduction of tension in the country".

One dinar is a small sum, the activist argued, to deliver results with great value.

The project would also promote internal development through micro-enterprises, said Mourad Salhi of the National Association of Unemployed People.

"The fund will provide grants to unemployed people as well as monitor training. Funding will be derived in part from the state and also from businesses, and the rest will come from the components of civil society," he told forum participants.

Indeed, civil society appears poised to contribute the dinar, given the benefits. Samir Dhahbi, an employee in an insurance company, stressed that the initiative would open up new avenues for the unemployed to integrate into the economic and social life of the country.

"I have no problem with the deduction of a nominal amount of my salary, especially if the goal is noble and benefits the public interest. This is a national duty before everything," he told Magharebia.

"We must all work together today to reduce unemployment, support job seekers and assist them in creating projects," agreed Raoudha Hammi, an administrative assistant in a private company.

"Our duty is solidarity and unity to face our problems," she added.

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