Getting to work in Tunisia – is choice the answer?

News Actualité  Tunisie
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How can we boost the impact of employment programs for low-skilled and vulnerable citizens? A recent project in Tunisia suggests that choice is a key ingredient in ways you may not expect.

If you travel to Tataouine in southern Tunisia along the Libyan border, one of the first things you see is a signpost that reads, “Tripoli 290 kilometers; Tunis 530 kilometers; Lampedusa 345 kilometers; Mosul 3100 kilometers.” Tataouine was the set of the Star Wars movies, which gave a temporaryboost to the local economy. But today, this region has the highest unemployment rate in Tunisia, hovering at 37 percent. Most of Tunisia's public employment programs, including active labor market programs and job counseling, target university graduates, yet 70 percent of all unemployed in Tunisia do not have a university degree. The sign is a constant reminder that migration in search of job opportunities, and the risks it entails, is about the only choice they have.

We teamed up with local government, civil society and the private sector to tackle this “choice challenge”. Together we launched a project that asked a simple question: what happens when local communities and the private sector are given greater choice in designing pathways to sustainable livelihoods? How do these pathways compare to traditional public employment and safety net programs that lack such choice? The project combined social safety nets (cash transfers targeted to low-income, low-skilled unemployed) with paid, on-the-job training designed and delivered by local private employers and civil society groups.


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