An important Commission in the Netherlands – led by Hans Borstlap – recently put forward a policy advice in which permanent jobs were marked as ‘the norm’. However, a few thousand kilometres east, Mohammed Alkhafaji from Baghdad considers temporary jobs as the best solution to youth unemployment in Iraq. He is determined to work on this solution with his newly developed platform Gbaleh.
The solution is temporary jobs
Youth unemployment is a major problem in Iraq. It can be viewed as one of the main drivers of a recent influx of demonstrations, mainly organized by young people. “It’s very hard for young people to find permanent job opportunities as they witness strong competition”, says Alkhafaji. Since the government – Iraq’s largest employer – stopped hiring new people, the private sector needs to grow in order to provide new job opportunities. However, the low number of investments in Iraq make this process difficult at times. Moreover, competition makes it virtually impossible for young people to find permanent work. “Say you have five years of experience while, at the same time, there are ten people with more experience applying for the same job, you really don’t stand a chance.”
Therefore, Alkhafaji believes the solution to this problem might as well be temporary job opportunities, and more specifically, on-demand home services. “Everyone needs them. Think about it: you only need one or two hours to finish them and then you get paid.” Alkhafaji underlines the difficulties that might arise from finding a trusted service provider in Iraq. People can try to find someone through social media, but trust may be an issue here. Alkhafaji’s ideas are not new: they actually started about eight years ago in the United States. He applies the technique of Uber, the American ride-hailing company, to connect people that need services and service providers. Although in the Middle East the concept of on-demand home services is still rather unique.
On-demand home services via Gbaleh
To solve the problem of finding trusted service providers, while at the same time providing job opportunities, Alkhafaji created an online platform. In the Spring of 2019, the platform Gbaleh – that entails two different apps and a back-end administration page – was launched. One of the apps is for service providers – who register through the service they provide, their rate, location, picture, and experience. The other app is for people who need a service. These apps function in the same manner as Uber: the person using the service uses the app to find the right service provider based on, for example, ratings and distance. The service provider can accept or refuse the request via the other app.
The platform allows service providers to list a variety of skills and potential services. From cooking and cleaning to animal care and teaching. “There are two basic conditions for the type of services appearing on the platform”, Alkhafaji explains. “They need to be measured by time and they must be carried out in the users’ location.
The usage of the platform is currently free of charge. Alkhafaji: “I want to encourage people to come and register.” Although eventually, he would like to earn some money from the platform he created. At present, service providers from all over Iraq have registered: from Basrah in the South to Sinjar in the North. Not all applicants have been selected by Alkhafaji. “If you hire someone in Iraq, you must be sure that they will not do something bad to you.”
Something to live for
The main motivation behind starting his own social enterprise are, first and foremost, his children. “I hope that they will have a chance to get hired in the future.” Other people that are close to him also motivate Alkhafaji to make social impact. “I have a lot of friends who work as volunteers. They are all beautiful people and they prove that Iraq has a lot of things to live for.” His previous work experience provided him with the confidence that is needed to be a social enterprise. “
Getting new ideas accepted
The recent chaotic situation in Iraq has made things more complicated for Alkhafaji. First of all, almost all the online attention was pointed towards the demonstrations, which made his own advertisements less visible. Furthermore, he points out that during the demonstrations, people are looking to the government for jobs. “The government falsely promises citizens jobs and tries to downplay the private sector.” Creating awareness about jobs outside the government thus has become an important task of the social entrepreneur from Baghdad. “In each community, it is hard to get a new idea accepted,” he claims. By showing that his platform is really providing Iraqis with proper jobs he wants to overcome these barriers.
“In each community, it is hard to get a new idea accepted”
No other way
Despite all the difficulties, Alkhafaji doesn’t see another way than to find solutions for the most pivotal issues that are country currently facing his country. “The population in Iraq is heavily increasing and young people don’t have anything to do. You must find a solution. If the solution doesn’t come from outside the borders, you must have solutions from inside. The sharing economy – of which on-demand services are a prime example – is one of the most effective ways to reduce unemployment.” For Alkhafaji it’s vital that people know how much he cares about solving these problems through his social enterprise. “Whatever you are going to write about me, I am sure you will show how much I believe in it. I want to make that change by offering temporary jobs.”