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Kabul, 23 September 2014 - The most notable characteristic of the employed population in Afghanistan is that most workers, by far – 81 percent – work in a vulnerable setting, characterised by informal work arrangements and insecure employment, unstable and inadequate earnings and low productivity.  The new study of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU)  is about understanding how labour markets actually work in insecure and dynamic contexts, with a particular focus on how young women and men acquire skills and enter the urban labour market in the first place and what the nature and terms of their labour market participation look like. The paper, more specifically, looks at young women’s and men’s experiences in Kabul’s tailoring labour market. The study ultimately sets out to help us understand what a ‘good jobs agenda’ for fragile states might actually look like.

For many millions of people, the economy of Afghanistan is one of acute risk. Participation in labour markets – both rural and urban – is characterised by struggle and uncertainty. It is also deeply gendered: questions of access, mobility and returns are all contingent on, among other intersectional factors, whether the individual exchanging their labour is a man or woman.

The new study of Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU)  is about understanding how labour markets actually work in insecure and dynamic contexts, with a particular focus on: (1) how young women and men acquire skills and enter the urban labour market in the first place, particularly in light of the highly gendered nature of boundaries between public and private space; (2) what the nature, terms and limits of their labour market participation look like; and (3) whether participation in that urban labour market is working for or against them (in terms of its effects on various dimensions of their wellbeing).

The paper, more specifically, looks at young women’s and men’s experiences in Kabul’s tailoring labour market. The study ultimately sets out to help us understand what a ‘good jobs agenda’ for fragile states might actually look like.

Major findings of this paper suggest that the labour market ultimately functions as a social economy: one’s access and participation are socially regulated not only by one’s networks, but also by institutionalised ideas about what is seen to constitute acceptable behaviour for different social groups. As such, donor programming seeking to create better work for young people in Afghanistan must start with the idea that labour markets both reflect and reinforce existing social inequality, and engage with the evidence showing how the constraints facing women and men in finding and staying in work are of a completely separate nature. In this context, the notion of ‘decent work’ cannot just be about increasing the supply of less insecure jobs, but rather demands practical engagement with the deeply gendered way in which things work – not only in the space of the economic marketplace, but also within the reproductive economic space of the household.

Read full report :

AREU - Gender Youth and Urban Labour Market Participation in Kabul-2014f