Economic Assessmen - Samuel Hall

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Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 1/102
Report commissioned by
Mercy Corps
S a m u e l H a l l
Q a l a - e - F a t u l l a h , S t r e e t # 5 K a b u l , A F G H A N I S T A N
w w w . s a m u e l h a l l . o r g
Economic Assessment and Labour Market Survey of
Mazar-i Sharif, Pul-i Khumri, Kandahar City and Kunduz City
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 2/102
Table of Contents
1. Introduction ..................................................................................... 6
1.1. Project Overview .......................................................................................................... 6
1.2 Project Methodology ....................................................................................................... 7
1.2.1. Fieldwork team ..................................................................................................................... 7
1.2.2. Sample Description .............................................................................................................. 8
1.2.3 Qualitative Survey ................................................................................................................. 9
1.3. Structure of the Report ................................................................................................. 10
2. Respondents’ Social and Economic Profile ...................................... 11
2.1. Age Structure ................................................................................................................ 11
2.2 Place of Origin ................................................................................................................ 12
2.3. Household Composition and Sources of Income .......................................................... 13
2.4. Education ...................................................................................................................... 15
3. Economic and Labour Market Overview ......................................... 16
3.1 Economic Overview ....................................................................................................... 16
3.2 Labour Markets .............................................................................................................. 19
3.3 Obstacles to Business Development and Economic Growth ......................................... 20
4. Pul-i Khumri, Baghlan Province ....................................................... 24
4.1 Economic Overview ....................................................................................................... 24
4.2 Labour Market Survey, Pul-i Khumri .............................................................................. 28
4.2.1 Companies’ Profile .............................................................................................................. 28
4.2.2 Ownership, Foundation and Licensing ................................................................................ 29
4.2.3. Staffing and Recruitment Channels .................................................................................... 30
4.2.4. Employee Contracts and Salaries ....................................................................................... 31
4.2.5. Company Revenue and Expenses ....................................................................................... 32
4.2.6. Access to Credit and Financing ........................................................................................... 33
4.3. Gender and Youth ......................................................................................................... 34
4.4. Obstacles to Business Development ............................................................................. 37
4.5. Training ......................................................................................................................... 38
Box 1: Day Labourers and Labour Migration ....................................................................... 40
5. Mazar-i Sharif, Balkh Province ........................................................ 42
5.1 Economic Overview ....................................................................................................... 42
5.2 Labour Market, Mazar-i Sharif ....................................................................................... 47
5.2.1 Companies’ Profile .............................................................................................................. 47
5.2.2 Ownership, Foundation and Licensing ................................................................................ 48
5.2.3. Staffing and Recruitment Channels .................................................................................... 49
5.2.4. Employee Contracts and Salaries ....................................................................................... 50
5.2.5. Company Revenue and Expenses ....................................................................................... 51
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 3/102
5.2.6. Access to Credit and Financing ........................................................................................... 52
5.3. Gender and Youth ......................................................................................................... 53
5.4. Obstacles to Business Development ............................................................................. 56
5.5. Training ......................................................................................................................... 57
Box 2: The Industrial Sector ................................................................................................. 59
6. Kandahar City, Kandahar Province .................................................. 61
6.1 Economic Overview ....................................................................................................... 61
6.2 Labour Market, Kandahar City ....................................................................................... 65
6.2.1 Companies’ Profile .............................................................................................................. 65
6.2.2 Ownership, Foundation and Licensing ................................................................................ 66
6.2.3. Staffing and Recruitment Channels .................................................................................... 67
6.2.4. Employee Contracts and Salaries ....................................................................................... 68
6.2.5. Company Revenue and Expenses ....................................................................................... 69
6.2.6. Access to Credit and Financing ........................................................................................... 70
6.3. Gender and Youth ......................................................................................................... 71
6.4. Obstacles to Business Development ............................................................................. 73
6.5. Training ......................................................................................................................... 74
Box 3: Transition: The Economic Impact ............................................................................. 76
7. Kunduz City, Kunduz Province ........................................................ 77
7.1 Economic Overview ....................................................................................................... 77
7.2 Kunduz City Labour Market ........................................................................................... 81
7.2.1 Companies’ Profile .............................................................................................................. 81
7.2.2 Ownership, Foundation and Licensing ................................................................................ 82
7.2.3. Staffing and Recruitment Channels .................................................................................... 83
7.2.4. Employee Contracts and Salaries ....................................................................................... 84
7.2.5. Company Revenue and Expenses ....................................................................................... 85
7.2.6. Access to Credit and Financing ........................................................................................... 86
7.3. Gender and Youth ......................................................................................................... 87
7.4. Obstacles to Business Development ............................................................................. 90
7.5. Training ......................................................................................................................... 91
Annex 1: Vocational Training .............................................................. 93
Annex 1.1: Pul-i Khumri ....................................................................................................... 94
Annex 1.2: Mazar-i Sharif ..................................................................................................... 96
Annex 1.3: Kandahar City ..................................................................................................... 98
Annex 1.4: Kunduz City ...................................................................................................... 100
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 4/102
Background Information
Samuel Hall is a research and consulting company with headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. We
specialise in perception surveys, policy and socio-economic research, evaluations and impact
assessments for governmental and non-governmental organisations. Our teams of technical experts,
practitioners, and researchers have years of field and research experience in Afghanistan. This has
allowed us to (i) acquire a firm grasp of the political and socio-cultural context of development in
Afghanistan; (ii) design data collection methods and statistical analyses for monitoring, evaluation
and planning of programmes; (iii) apply cross-disciplinary knowledge in providing integrated
solutions for policy interventions.
List of Acronyms
ACCI Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry
AISA Afghanistan Investment Support Agency
ANSF Afghanistan National Security Forces
APTTA Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement
DoCI Department of Commerce and Industry
DoLSA Department of Labour and Social Affairs
DoWA Department of Women’s Affairs
IO International Organisation
ISAF International Security Assistance Force
MoI Ministry of Interior
NRVA National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment
This document was written and researched by the staff of Samuel Hall Consulting. ODI does not endorse the
opinions therein or guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this work.
Samuel Hall Consulting encourages dissemination of its work and will, under most circumstances, promptly
grant permission to reproduce portions of the work promptly. For permission to photocopy or reprint any
part of this work, please send a request with complete information to development@samuelhall.org.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 5/102
Executive Summary
The provincial economies of Baghlan, Balkh, Kandahar and Kunduz are structurally comparable.
According to the National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA), the agriculture and livestock
sector employ approximately 60% of the national labour force, however in the urban provincial
centres, the predominant economic activity changes to trade and small scale manufacturing. In the
rural districts, agriculture dominates the local economies with a minimal services sector clustered in
the district bazaars. Beyond agriculture there are few employment opportunities with many youth
migrating to provincial or regional centres as well as to Iran and Pakistan to supplement household
income.
As part of the labour market survey, 1,313 employers and employers were asked to detail their
primary source of household income and 34.7% stated wholesale and retail trade, 33.2% declared
manufacturing and public administration comprised 10.6% indicating a concentration of economic
activity in trade and small-scale manufacturing. The profile of the businesses surveyed appeared to
confirm the primary economic sectors in urban areas as 48.9% were working in the manufacturing
sector and 39.3% were involved in wholesale and retail trade. All other sectors, including
construction, hotels and restaurants and transport recorded response levels of less than 4%.
The border provinces of Balkh, Kandahar and Kunduz have benefited considerably from the
increased levels of trade resulting from the presence of the international military and accompanying
civilian agencies. Mazar-i Sharif and Kandahar City act as regional economic hubs for the surrounding
provinces with imports of capital equipment, automobiles, clothes and foodstuffs far outweighing
the exports of fruits, nuts and handicrafts in Mazar-i Sharif as well as unprocessed agricultural goods
to Pakistan through Kandahar. The manufacturing sector is overwhelmingly comprised of small
companies as evidenced by the average number of employees in the surveyed businesses being 4.5.
The labour market is a victim of approximately 30 years of conflict, exacerbated by approximately
36% of the population living below the poverty level. The average household income of all
individuals surveyed was 25, 731 Afs (US$548) and approximately 21% reported being illiterate and a
further 21.6% possessing a primary school education level. Skills levels remain low with many
manufacturing and trading concerns relying on relatives to work in the family business with 32% of
employees stating that their employer was a relative. Approximately 60% of both employees an
employers have never received any training and of the remainder, an average of 32.4% of
employees have only received on the job training. The labour market also remains highly informal.
Recruitment is primarily undertaken through friends and family who also act as an important source
of credit to develop or set up a business. In addition, approximately 11% of companies are also not
registered with any government agency or department.
The intended security transition that will be accompanied by a significant drawdown in aid spending
is likely to impact the construction and services sector, according to the World Bank, contributing to
higher levels of unemployment and underemployment. The resultant effect will increase the
informal labour market and contribute to greater levels of labour migration. Building the skill levels
within the manufacturing sector has the potential effect of increasing local economic growth,
creating economic opportunities for youth and reducing the high levels of labour migration.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 6/102
Introduction
1.1. Project Overview
Mercy Corps has been active in Afghanistan since 1986 providing assistance through a wide range of
community-based agriculture and economic development programs. The organization is currently
working in 12 provinces in northern, southern and eastern Afghanistan. The current programs are
aimed at improving agricultural production and market linkages, community and agricultural
infrastructure, livestock health, natural resource management and access to financial services, with
an emphasis on linking government, communities and the private sector.
Mercy Corps is currently implementing a three-year, DFID-funded technical vocational skills training
program for unemployed/underemployed Afghan youth between the ages of 18 -25 in Helmand
province. In partnership with the private sector, government and community leaders, the
“Introducing New Vocational Education and Skills Training” (INVEST) programme, offers a range of
market-driven technical and vocational skills training options that target the needs of the Helmand
labor market in order to enhance income-earning, employment and self-employment opportunities
for youth trainees. Mercy Corps anticipates receiving funding to expand the Helmand INVEST model
to four additional provinces; Balkh, Baghlan, Kunduz and Kandahar.
Mercy Corps, following a competitive bidding process, commissioned Samuel Hall Consulting to
produce an economic assessment report based on desk research, labour market assessments and
analyses and key stakeholder interviews in the four targeted provinces to identify growth sectors
and jobs and technical vocational skills in greatest demand in each province in order to inform a
skills training program design process.
The Scope of Work includes three tasks outlined below which will be incorporated into an Economic
Assessment Report. The tasks include:
 The preparation of an economic profile of each target province;
 A labour market assessment and analysis of the targeted provinces highlighting growth sectors
and jobs and skills in greatest demand;
 Interviews with key stakeholders in each target province to amplify and ground truth the
assessment data.
1.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 7/102
1.2 Project Methodology
The baseline information was collected through a quantitative survey and focus group
discussions during 15 days of fieldwork in Pul-i Khumri, Baghlan Province; Mazar-e Sharif,
Balkh Province; Kandahar City, Kandahar Province; and Kunduz City, Kunduz Province.
We designed 2 different but complementary quantitative questionnaires in order to refine
our approach of the labour market:
 A social and economic quantitative “Employers’ Questionnaire” of 56 close-ended
and pre-coded questions covering personal profile, income sources and main
expenditures of the household, educational and training background, past and
current professional information and the local job market;
 A social and economic quantitative “Employees’ Questionnaire” of 41 close-ended
and pre-coded questions covering personal profile, income sources and main
expenditures of the household, educational and training background and
information on the local business.
To refine our understanding of the four different labour markets and draw a more objective
picture of its actual challenges, Focus Group Discussion guidelines were designed aiming at
gathering additional qualitative data on the locations surveyed, collecting information on
the population, social values (living standards, education, etc.), economy, infrastructures,
and main needs. Key informant interviews with government, NGOs and business leaders
were also conducted in Pul-i Khumri, Mazar-i Sharif and Kunduz City to triangulate the
information from the surveys and focus groups. No key information interviews were
conducted in Kandahar City due to the security situation.
1.2.1. Fieldwork team
The project lasted for approximately 45 days and the fieldwork took place in Pul-i Khumri,
Mazar-i Sharif, Kandahar City and Kunduz City. The research team consisted of two
international consultants, two national team leaders from Kabul, and two teams of national
interviewers each totalling seven people, selected on the basis of their previous experience
as surveyors and researchers.
Separate focus group discussions for each province were organized for employers,
unemployed youth and female participants. In addition, to the focus groups an international
consultant travelled to Pul-i Khumri, Mazar-i Sharif and Kunduz city to conduct a series of
key informant interviews.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 8/102
1.2.2. Sample Description
Based on our interviews of Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz Afghan Chambers of Commerce and Industry
(ACCI) as well as Afghan Investment Support Agency (AISA), there are no official lists of the
companies, businesses, or commercial entities operating in the four-surveyed provinces;
 Based on our conversations with the World Bank staff and after a rapid field assessment in
both Mazar-e-Sharif and Faizabad, the only available lists (World Bank – Climate Survey
2008-2009) cannot be considered as a reliable source.
However, in order to include a representative sample of the various socio-professional as well as
economic types of respondents, the sampling methodology could follow a cluster-then- random
approach (multi-stage sampling) and be structured as follows:
 In each targeted urban area, the main commercial and industrial areas will be identified
(bazaars, industrial parks, service providers, urban commercial centres, peri-urban
commercial streets, etc.) with the active support of local key informants, to map the existing
socio-economic environments;
 A quota of interviews will be allocated to each selected area to reduce the effect of
homogeneity or bias in sampling.
 A starting point (typically a mosque or a school) will then be chosen in each commercial or
industrial area, streets will be numbered and commercial entities selected at random (for
instance, odd shops and companies of streets 1-3-5-7).
After the draft questionnaires were finalised with the Mercy Corps staff, a series of two pilot tests
were conducted in Dari and Pashto in Kabul. As survey standards require, the results of the pilot
tests were used to refine the research tools and produce final questionnaires.
The quantitative surveys for employers totalled 56 questions and took between 35 and 45 minutes
to complete. The final number of completed surveyed is listed below in Table 1.1. A larger number
of surveys were conducted in Mazar-i Sharif, in consultation with Mercy Corps, due to the larger
population and reported level of economic activity.
Table 1.1: Quantitative Sample Description (breakdown by district)
Province Employers Employees
Pul-i Khumri 153 150
Mazar-i Sharif 201 203
Kandahar City 152 152
Kunduz City 151 151
Total 657 656
To better grasp the labour market reality, there was no specific gender quota and the 14
interviewers (including 4 women) were asked to randomly interview the first employees they found
in the surveyed companies or organizations. Table 1.2 shows that there is no significant difference
between the 4 provinces: a ratio of approximately 1 to 10 is applicable between female and male
respondents for both employers and employees.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 9/102
Table 1.2: Quantitative Sample Description (breakdown by gender)
Employers Employees Total
Female Male Female Male Female Male Frequency
Pul-i Khumri 6.5% 93.5% 6.7% 93.3% 6.6% 93.4% 303
Mazar-i Sharif 11.9% 88.1% 10.3% 89.7% 11.1% 88.9% 404
Kandahar City 5.9% 94.1% 5.9% 94.1% 5.9% 94.1% 304
Kunduz City 14.6% 85.4% 14.6% 85.4% 14.6% 85.4% 302
Average 9.9% 90.1% 9.5% 90.5% 9.7% 90.3% 1,313
Although Mercy Corps is intending on targeting youth for vocational training, there was no
youth quota for the interviewers as interviewers, as explained above, were tasked with
randomly interviewing the first employees they found.
Table 1.3: Quantitative Sample Description (breakdown by average age)
Average Age
Employers Employees
Pul-i Khumri 30.1 19.4
Mazar-i Sharif 31.9 21.5
Kandahar City 28.9 19.9
Kunduz City 29.8 19.4
Average 30.2 20.1
The average age of employers from the four cities is 30.2 years and for employees 20.1.
1.2.3 Qualitative Survey
Three different focus groups involving employers, unemployed youth and women were
undertaken in each province involving five participants each. Further qualitative information
was derived from key informant interviews in Pul-i Khumri, Mazar-i Sharif and Kunduz City.
Due to the security situation, there were no key informant interviews conducted in
Kandahar City. The key informant interviews were semi-structured and conducted with 15
stakeholders in Maza-i Sharif, 10 in Pul-i Khumri and 14 in Kunduz City.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 10/102
1.3. Structure of the Report
This report is divided into seven chapters and structured as follows. Chapter 1 provides
background and contextual information, as well as the methodological approach that was
used to gather qualitative information and quantitative data. The second chapter draws a
picture of the social and economic profile of both employees and employers. The third
chapter provides an economic overview and comparative labour market assessment of the
four subject cities. Chapter 4 starts the first of four provincial chapters with an economic
profile and labour market assessment followed by a brief overview of training within the
surveyed businesses. The provincial chapters commence with Chapter 4, Pul-i Khumri;
Chapter 5, Mazar-i Sharif; Chapter 6, Kandahar City and Chapter 7, Kunduz City. The annexes
contain additional information on vocational training.
Photo: A woman embroiderer in Kandahar City
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 11/102
Respondents’ Social and Economic Profile
The following section details the current economic and social profile of the respondents (both
employees and employers) interviewed in the targeted cities.
2.1. Age Structure
Table 2.1 provides a breakdown of both employers and employees by province and age bracket.
Table 2.1: Respondents by age bracket (employer = A, employee = B)
Of particular note from the age breakdown:
 An average of 10.9% of all employees are less than 15 years old (<15), with the largest
representations in Kunduz (17.5%) and Kandahar (14.5%). There are no employers within
this age category
 There is approximately double the amount of employees (71.7%) between 15-24 years old
than employers (35.6%) making it the largest age group of employees. The second largest
age bracket of employees is between 25 and 24 amount to an average of 12.2%. Employees
aged 24 and younger account for 82.6% of total employees surveyed.
 The largest age bracket of employers is also between 15 and 24 years old (35.6%), which is
followed by employers aged between 25 and 34 (34.9%).
 The average age of employers is 30.2 and the average age of employees is 20.1 years old.
Age < 15 15-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
A B A B A B A B A B A B A B
Pul-i Khumri 0.0% 8.0% 37.9% 79.3% 33.3% 10.0% 18.3% 1.3% 4.6% 1.3% 5.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Mazar-i Sharif 0.0% 3.9% 31.8% 74.4% 31.8% 13.8% 22.4% 4.9% 10.0% 2.0% 3.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5%
Kandahar City 0.0% 14.5% 34.9% 67.1% 38.8% 13.8% 19.7% 2.6% 3.9% 2.0% 2.0% 0.0% 0.7% 0.0%
Kunduz City 0.0% 17.3% 37.7% 66.0% 35.8% 11.3% 15.2% 4.0% 6.6% 1.3% 3.3% 0.0% 1.3% 0.0%
Average 0.0% 10.9% 35.6% 71.7% 34.9% 12.2% 18.9% 3.2% 6.3% 1.7% 3.7% 0.1% 0.6% 0.1%
2.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 12/102
Figure 2.1: Age breakdown of both employers and employees
2.2 Place of Origin
Labour migration is a common phenomenon in Afghanistan as individuals seek to supplement the
often-meagre household income by travelling to urban centres in search of work. A large percentage
of Afghan males also travel to Iran and Pakistan in search of employment in construction or manual
labouring. Conversely, a number of Pakistani and to a lesser extent Iranian men migrate to
Afghanistan to work as qualified tradesmen. Table 2.2 provides information on whether respondents
originate from the subject province, from another Afghan province or from another country.
Table 2.2: Origin of Respondents
Employers Employees
From
Province
Other
province
Other
country
From
Province
Other
province
Other
country
Pul-i Khumri 73.2% 26.8% 0.0% 89.3% 10.7% 0.0%
Mazar-i Sharif 73.1% 24.4% 2.5% 78.8% 19.7% 1.5%
Kandahar City 87.5% 6.6% 5.9% 84.2% 9.2% 6.6%
Kunduz City 82.8% 15.2% 2.0% 84.8% 12.6% 2.6%
Average 79.2% 18.2% 2.6% 84.3% 13.0% 2.7%
Approximately three-quarters of employers from Pul-i Khumri and Mazar-i Sharif originate from
their respective cities, while higher figures were reported for Kandahar (87.5%) and Kunduz (82.8%).
In Mazar-i Sharif, approximately a quarter of employees originate from other provinces including
Kabul (8%) and Parwan (2%). Almost 6% of employers in Kandahar are foreigners, six from Pakistan
and three from Iran out of a total of 152. A larger percentage of employees are working in their
home province than employees with the highest number of employees from other provinces
working in Mazar-i Sharif (19.7%).
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
< 15 15-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Baghlan
Balkh
Kandahar
Kunduz
Average
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 13/102
2.3. Household Composition and Sources of Income
Table 2.3 represents a breakdown of respondent’s households by age category. The average size of a
household across the four cities is 9.9 members, with the largest average household being recorded
in Kandahar with 11.1 family members.
Table 2.3: Respondent’s household age bracket
Male <15
Female
<15
Male
(15-24)
Female
(15-24) Male 24+
Female
24+
Household
Total
Pul-i Khumri 1.8 1.8 1.6 1.1 1.5 1.4 9.3
Mazar-i Sharif 1.8 1.7 1.5 0.9 1.6 1.7 9.0
Kandahar City 2.6 2.2 1.7 1.4 1.8 1.5 11.1
Kunduz City 2.2 1.9 1.5 1.1 1.6 1.5 10.0
Mean 2.1 1.9 1.6 1.1 1.6 1.5 9.9
Mean (%) 21.4% 19.0% 16.0% 11.5% 16.6% 15.7% 100%
Males aged 24 years and younger comprise 37.4% of the average household, while women in the
same category amount to 30.5%. The most represented age category is males aged less than 15
years old (21.4%).
Table 2.4: Contributors to household income (percentage breakdown by age and gender)
Male <15 Female <15
Male
(15-24)
Female
(15-24) Male 24+
Female
24+ Total
Pul-i Khumri 0.2% 0.2% 42.5% 4.3% 68.7% 2.5% 0.2%
Mazar-i Sharif 0.3% 0.0% 37.6% 6.1% 70.9% 7.1% 0.3%
Kandahar City 1.5% 0.5% 48.2% 1.4% 64.9% 2.4% 1.5%
Kunduz City 1.8% 0.0% 44.2% 6.6% 65.4% 4.6% 1.8%
Mean (%) 0.9% 0.2% 43.1% 4.6% 67.5% 4.1% 0.9%
Table 2.4 provides an indication of the participation by age category and gender towards household
income. Slightly more than two thirds of males aged over 24 years old contribute to household
income, while 43.1% of 15 to 24 year old males also participate in income generating activities. For
women, participation in come generating activities is greatest among the 15 to 24 years old age
category (4.6%), followed by women older than 24 (4.1%).
Table 2.5: Household income (breakdown by gross amount per age category)
Male <15 Female <15
Male
(15-24)
Female
(15-24) Male 24+
Female
24+ Total
Pul-i Khumri 73 2 5,204 1,753 12,234 175 19,442
Mazar-i Sharif 23 0 4,098 220 14,116 1,247 19,704
Kandahar City 431 36 8,025 303 18,993 1,901 29,689
Kunduz City 365 0 8,205 579 23,404 1,536 34,089
Mean 223 9 6,383 714 17,187 1,215 25,731
Mean (%) 0.9% 0.0% 24.8% 2.8% 66.8% 4.7% 100.0%
Table 2.5 details the average income per household broken down by gross income per age group,
rather than individual family member. The largest contributors to family income are males over 24
years old, while males between 15 and 24 provide almost a quarter of household income. Women
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 14/102
collectively provide 7.5% of average household income from across the four cities. The average
household income was calculated at 25,731 Afs (US$547) with Kunduz recording the highest average
household income of 34,089 Afs (US$725), while Baghlan the lowest at 19,442 Afs (US$414).
Respondents were also asked to identify their primary source of household income and the
responses are listed in Table 2.6.
Table 2.6: Primary source of household income
Pul-i
Khumri
Mazari Sharif Kandahar Kunduz Average
Wholesale and Retail Trade 24.9% 23.8% 48.7% 41.5% 34.7%
Manufacturing (Carpentry) 35.6% 31.5% 13.4% 20.2% 25.1%
Public Administration 13.2% 10.6% 9.6% 9.1% 10.6%
Manufacturing (Carpet Making) 6.2% 7.5% 11.1% 7.5% 8.1%
Transportation 7.0% 8.2% 5.5% 6.9% 6.9%
Agriculture and Livestock 2.1% 3.0% 3.5% 6.1% 3.7%
Construction 3.1% 5.5% 4.0% 4.4% 4.3%
Hotels 3.1% 3.4% 2.9% 1.3% 2.7%
Telecoms 3.4% 4.5% 0.6% 1.3% 2.5%
Total 98.6% 98.0% 99.4% 98.3% 98.6%
Wholesale and retail trade (34.7%) and manufacturing (25.1%) are the primary sources of household
income for respondents. Manufacturing was divided into two categories in an attempt to
differentiate trades such as carpentry, welding, baking, and light manufacturing concerns from
carpet making, embroidery and bead making for the purposes of Mercy Corp’s proposed vocational
training initiative. Public administration was the primary source of household income for 10.6% of
respondents, followed by manufacturing – carpet making, embroidery at 8.1%. Despite agriculture
being the major contributor to rural households, in the surveyed urban areas, only an average of
3.7% of households reported agriculture as their primary source of income. The average source of
primary household income is graphically illustrated in Figure 2.1 below.
Figure 2.2: Primary source of household income (average, 4 cities)
Transportation
7%
Agriculture and Livestock
4%
Construction
4%
Hotels
3%
Telecoms
3%
Manufacturing
(Carpet Making)
8%
Public Administration
11%
Manufacturing
(Carpentry)
Wholesale and Retail Trade
34%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 15/102
2.4. Education
Education levels vary significantly between provinces as Table 2.7 details.
Table 2.7: Education (combined employers an employees breakdown by level)
Illiterate
(no
schooling)
Literate
(no
schooling)
Primary
school
Secondary
school
High
School
Vocational
school University Total
Pul-i Khumri 7.3% 0.0% 17.3% 38.0% 34.0% 0.0% 3.3% 100%
Mazar-i Sharif 11.8% 2.0% 20.2% 37.4% 24.6% 0.5% 3.4% 100%
Kandahar City 40.5% 7.8% 27.5% 17.0% 7.2% 0.0% 0.0% 100%
Kunduz City 26.5% 2.0% 21.9% 25.8% 22.5% 0.0% 1.3% 100%
Average 20.9% 2.9% 21.6% 30.1% 22.2% 0.2% 2.1% 100%
An average of 20.9% of respondents answered that they were illiterate with higher levels of illiteracy
recorded in Kandahar (40.5%) and Kunduz (26.5%). Kandahar respondents were almost four times
more likely to be illiterate than those in Mazar-i Sharif and almost six times employers and
employees in Baghlan. The most cited level of education was secondary school, claimed by 30.1% of
respondents as their highest level of education, followed by high school (22.2%) and the
aforementioned group of illiterate workers (20.9%). An average of 2.1% of respondents reported
having attended university.
Approximately 41% of both employees and employers also stated that they had pursued an Islamic
education at either a madrassa or other school, with most individuals studying for between 1 to 2
years (70%). The highest rates of Islamic education attendance were recorded in both Kandahar
(54.6%) and Kunduz (51.7%). In many cases, students complete a secular education up to the end of
secondary school and complete at least one to two years at a madrassa, often traveling to Paksitan.
Figure 2.3: Respondents’ Education Levels
0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45%
Illiterate (no schooling)
Literate (no schooling)
Primary school
Secondary school
High School
Vocational school
University
Average
Kunduz
Kandahar
Balkh
Baghlan
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 16/102
Economic and Labour Market Overview
3.1 Economic Overview
For the last ten years, Afghanistan has benefited from massive inflows of development aid,
estimated to be US$15.7 billion in 2010 and equal to real GDP, which have contributed to the
development of the country, but also resulted in an economy that has become heavily aiddependent.1 Despite the development assistance, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest
countries with 35.8% of the population living below the poverty line, a per capita income of US$528,
an underemployment rate of close to 50% and three quarters of the labour force estimated to be
illiterate.2
Provincial economies remain highly dependent on agriculture and livestock; reportedly employ
59.1% of the national workforce. In the provinces of Kandahar or Baghlan, for example, the district
bazaars provide basic foodstuffs, minimal services and trade local agriculture products. The postharvest sector remains hamstrung by a lack of infrastructure, including cold storage and a processing
capacity, little domestic demand and challenging export regimes. High levels of poverty also dictate
that there is little local demand for processed agriculture products, ranging from packaging to
processed dairy products and instead imports, often cheaper, fill the local bazaars.
Although much reliance has been placed on the future of the mining sector, it may still be several
years before the tendered mines become operational. Often based in the districts such as coal
deposits in Tala Wa Barfak, Baghlan Province and gold deposits in Dushi district, also of Baghlan,
little government oversight, opaque ownership structures and community mining have ensured that
the mines are a long way off becoming a stable source of tax revenue or even that they provide
greater benefits, beyond day labour, to the local communities. 3
There are significant structural differences between the provincial urban and rural economies. The
rural economies, as discussed, are overwhelmingly reliant on agricultural production, becoming
most apparent in times of food insecurity such as the current drought across the north of
Afghanistan. The urban economies centred on the provincial capitals act as trading and services
1 The World Bank, ‘Transition in Afghanistan: Looking Beyond 2014,’ Executive Summary, 18th November 2011.
2 Afghanistan: Provincial Briefs, June 2011,’ Ministry of Economy. The data is derived from the 2007/8 National Risk and
Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA). Per capita income is derived from the World Bank, ‘Transition in Afghansitan.’
3 In the last 18 months, there has been a plethora of articles raising the prospect of mineral resources providing a much
needed boost to the domestic economy. For example, please see: The Financial Express, ‘Afghanistan opens up mining
sector, to float $10-bn tenders next year.’ 11 November 2010. Available at:
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Afghanistan-opens-up-mining-sector--to-float--10-bn-tenders-next-yr/709397/ For
an understanding of the side-effects of the potential mining boom, see: Integrity Watch Afghanistan, ‘Hajigak, The Jewel of
Afghan Mines,’ July 2011. Available at: http://www.iwaweb.org/Reports/Hajigak-The_Jewel_of_Afghanistan-2011.html
3.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 17/102
centres with a manufacturing base for both the rural and urban populations. For example,
approximately 35% of the 1,313 respondents for this report declared their primary source of
household income was derived from wholesale and retail trading, while a further quarter of those
surveyed declared manufacturing, which includes bakeries, carpentry and metal working, to be their
household’s primary income. This dependence on trading and small-scale manufacturing was
confirmed by the profile of the businesses surveyed. Approximately 40% of both employers and
employees worked in the wholesale and retail trade, while a further 33.1% worked in manufacturing
(see Table 3.1)
The urban capitals, therefore, act as trading and service centres. For the border provinces of Balkh,
Kandahar and Kunduz, which benefit from an international border crossing, the level of wholesale
and retail trade, due to the number of import and export businesses, comprise a larger percentage
of the local economy than in provinces such as Baghlan. In Mazar-i Sharif, 40.3% of respondents
worked in wholesale and retail trade, with higher figures recorded for Kandahar (54.5%) and Kunduz
(48.3%). Baghlan, although located along the trade route between Kabul and the northern border
crossings in Balkh and Kunduz, appears to be less reliant on trade as only 32.7% of businesses
reported working in wholesale or retail trade. Mazar-i Sharif and Kandahar and to a lesser extent
Kunduz City, benefit from their strategic location by serving as regional trading hubs for the north,
south and northeast of the country, respectively.
Table 3.1: Sources of household income and profiles of surveyed businesses (by economic sector)
Source of Household
Income
(Four Cities)
Company Profile
(Four Cities)
Economic Sector Em
p lo ye rs Em p lo ye e s M
e an Em p lo ye rs Em p lo ye e s M
e an Agriculture and Livestock 2.7% 4.6% 3.7% 1.8% 1.2% 1.5%
Mining and Quarrying 0.9% 0.0% 0.5% 1.1% 1.1% 1.1%
Manufacturing (Embroidery,
Carpet Making)
12.8% 4.5% 8.6% 16.2% 15.5% 15.8%
Manufacturing (Carpentry,
Electrician, Welding)
28.7% 20.1% 24.4% 32.0% 34.3% 33.1%
Construction 2.5% 6.1% 4.3% 0.8% 1.2% 1.0%
Wholesale and Retail Trade 35.8% 34.0% 34.9% 40.0% 38.6% 39.3%
Transportation 3.3% 10.5% 6.9% 1.5% 1.5% 1.5%
Hotels, Restaurants 3.1% 2.2% 2.7% 2.9% 3.5% 3.2%
Telecoms, IT, Computers 4.3% 0.6% 2.5% 1.7% 2.2% 1.9%
Financial 0.5% 0.0% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Public Administration 3.9% 17.3% 10.6% 0.2% 0.2% 0.2%
Education Providers 0.9% 0.0% 0.4% 1.7% 1.2% 1.5%
Health Providers 0.3% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
NGOs/IOs 0.9% 1.3% 1.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
Manufacturing remains small scale and an industrial capacity, which employed thousands in the late
1970s in Kandahar, Baghlan and Kunduz lies largely dormant due to a lack of investment and oftenMercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 18/102
dysfunctional private-public partnerships that fail to compete with cheaper imports from China and
Pakistan. The industrial sector, which had produced textiles, sugar, soap and oils up until the late
1970s continues to be spoken about long after it’s decline as a source of pride, but also as a source
of frustration at the lack of employment opportunities currently available. The Pul-i Khumri textile
factory and the Spinzer factory in Kunduz City are perhaps the most visible testament to decades of
neglect (see Box 2).
When including handicrafts and carpet making, manufacturing comprises approximately 35% to 50%
of both household income and the composition of randomly surveyed businesses. The
manufacturing base is primarily small-scale production for local markets by bazaar traders, with
locally produced goods facing stiff competition from cheaper imports. Larger scale production has
been promoted in a series of industrial parks located in the larger provinces, including Balkh and
Kandahar, however irregular and costly supplies of electricity have undermined their comparative
advantage and automated processes have ensured that labour inputs remain limited.
The construction sector continues to thrive, however is perceived to be partially dependent on
international development spending on infrastructure projects that until recently seemed to be
unlimited. The drawdown in international aid, which will most likely accompany the gradual
withdrawal of foreign military forces, is bound to affect the construction industry and thereby
contribute to further underemployment in the provinces due to a reduction in demand for day
labourers, which arguably supply the majority of labour.
Photos: Focus group discussions with unemployed youth
in Mazar-i Sharif (above) and Pul-i Khumri (below)
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 19/102
3.2 Labour Markets
The labour supply in the subject districts could be characterised as poorly educated, largely informal
and lacking the requisite skills to develop their career further. Approximately 45% of surveyed
employers and employees are either illiterate, literate with no schooling or were schooled up to
primary school (see Table 2.6). Small businesses overwhelmingly remain family affairs with
recruitment and access to credit primarily undertaken through social networks and formal contracts
with employees being a rarity. The informal nature of businesses also extends to registration, as
approximately 11.2% of employers have not registered their firm with any official department or
agency. Formal skills in the labour market are also limited as there are few formal training
mechanisms that either employers or employees have previously reported accessing. An average of
61.2% of employers and 62.1% of employees had not received any formal training in their current
employment, while a further 22.5% of employers and 34.2% of employees had received internal
training, which is often conducted by a relative considering the familial nature of many businesses.
The urban labour markets shadow the economic activities of the provincial capitals. As detailed
above, the primary sectors driving the economy and providing employment is the wholesale and
retail trade, followed by the manufacturing sector. During key informant interviews and focus group
discussions tended to divide the labour market into two. The first category of workers were
educated, generally in the urban centres, and due to their literacy were able to access further
education opportunities as well employment within the government, NGOs, the UN and the limited
number of jobs within the formal private sector.
‘The second category of workers were generally deemed to be illiterate or with low education
standards, often from the districts, and reliant on low skill jobs in the bazaars as cart haulers, day
labourers for the construction industry or agricultural workers during the harvest or planting season.
This second category of workers were reportedly also able to access apprenticeships or on the job
training within the family business in fields such as baking, carpentry, construction, masonry,
mechanics and metal work. Approximately a third of all employees stated that a relative was the
owner of the business, which supports the assertion that many of the small manufacturing and
trading businesses are family-run, with young males commencing work in their early teens, often
forgoing the opportunity of an education.
As opportunities remain limited in the formal labour market, many youth pursue work opportunities
in the day labour market. Day labourers, with high levels of illiteracy, comprise perhaps the majority
of workers in the construction industry and undertake many manual jobs, including seasonal
agricultural work, for an average of between 250 to 350Afs a day for a unskilled worker. In addition
to day labouring opportunities, interviews in the three northern provinces suggest that between one
in two and one in three households have at least one son working in either Iran and Pakistan. Labour
migration represents an important part of a family’s income, particularly in times of economic
shocks, such as the current drought across large parts of the north of the country. Perhaps
perversely, Afghan youth migrate to Pakistan and Iran to fulfil largely unskilled labour, similar to the
day labourers congregating in the main squares of Afghan urban centres, while Pakistani and to a
limited degree Iranian labour migrants fulfil some of the more skilled occupations in Afghanistan.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 20/102
Agriculture, while the primary driver of economic activity in the districts, has a more limited impact
in the urban centres as illustrated in Table 3.1. Only 3.7% of all surveyed individuals derive the
largest share of household income from agriculture and only 1.5% of employers and employees
were involved in the agriculture sector. Although important for day labourers, agriculture adds
value to urban economies directly through trading and transportation and indirectly through income
generation for the rural population.
3.3 Obstacles to Business Development and Economic Growth
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has been estimated at 9% over the past ten years as
international development and military funds have literally flooded into the country. The
construction, services and trading sectors have been the primary beneficiaries and the World Bank
estimates that approximately 6-10% of the working population ‘has benefited from aid-financed job
opportunities,’ although many have been short term.4 Aid dependency and the effects of the
economic transition will be addressed in Box 3, though it is important to note in this section that the
drawdown in international development and military spending is likely to directly affect those
sectors which have benefited mostly over the past ten years in addition leading to greater levels of
underemployment, likely greater levels of informal and labour migration combined with a fall in
household income.
Although the effects of the transition will increasingly impact provincial economies in the ensuing
years, businesses currently face numerous challenges that serve to curb economic growth and limit
the development of the labour market.
Insecurity is an oft-mentioned obstacle to economic growth, although the real effects of insecurity
are determinant on the location and economic activity of the concerned business. For example
business associations in Mazar-i Sharif declared that security has little impact on the operations of
their members, though in Kunduz City and in interviews with organisations familiar with Kandahar,
insecurity curtails district commerce and district to provincial centre trade, raises the cost of
transport and decreases the willingness of people to invest in new ventures or develop their existing
business. In Baghlan, for example, an individual working for an international organisation recounted
that the number of checkpoints operated my non-recognised militias on the road between Khenjan
and Andarab districts reached 14 during the height of summer 2011 during the harvest period. The
checkpoints have often been blamed for extracting illegal taxes or bakshish from vehicles carrying
agricultural products.
An additional example is from Kunduz City, where a value chain analyst described how some of the
businessmen he is working with decline to travel along the Kunduz City to Sher Khan road to the
border and back due to the risk of kidnapping. During the summer months, several traders were
reportedly kidnapped along the road, with one individual allegedly released after paying US$200,000
in ransom. The result, according to one business leader, is that many traders are now travelling
through Khairatan (Balkh Province) via Uzbekistan to Tajikistan, although lately the border crossing
4 World Bank, ‘Economic Transition,’ executive summary, November 2011
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 21/102
between those two countries has been closed for certain types of visas. Security costs, previously
added onto the bazaar price of many goods by traders coming from China and Pakistan, have been
cut as increasing competition or market forces has reduced the ability to raise prices. The result is
that some traders have bypassed Kunduz in search of more profitably markets.
More broadly, the uncertainties associated with the mid-to-long term political and security
environment has reportedly reduced the willingness of individuals and entities to assume the risks
associated with larger scale capital investments. The transfer of security responsibilities from
international to national forces in some of the more secure provinces has already occurred with a
second round of intended transfers, which would include Balkh province.5 As international forces
reduce their footprint across the country, questions arise as to whether the Afghanistan National
Security Forces (ANSF) are able to ensure a comparable level of security and whether the current
government can maintain an inclusive approach to governing.
The education and skill levels of the labour force was also mentioned in Pul-i Khumri, Mazar-i Sharif
and Kunduz City as a challenge facing businesses by the Department of Labour and Social Affairs
(DoLSA) and umbrella business groups. Illiteracy (see Table 2.7 for education levels of respondents)
was reported to limit the available employment opportunities for job seekers and reduces the
flexibility or choice for the employer to deploy the employee in different roles. In a similar manner
informally trained craftsmen, such as carpenters and metalworkers, although cheaper than formally
trained individuals are unable to undertake the more intricate and value added services or
manufacturing, which could increase economic opportunities. Business umbrella groups specifically
mentioned the poor knowledge of bookkeeping of their members, which leaves many owners at a
disadvantage when dealing with the imposition of arbitrary taxes.
Infrastructure is also a considerable obstacle for businesses. Mazar-i Sharif, for example, has
benefited from large-scale investments in infrastructure, including roads and railways, though the
electricity grid is unable to provide the provincial capital with an uninterrupted and reliable supply.6
Mazar hosts one substation in Puli Tasadi supplying the areas of Saydabad, Karte Ariana and Karte
Sol, however areas outside these areas are obliged to rely on generator power. The issue has also
impacted the industrial parks with the AISA managed Gorimar park being constructed without a
supply line to the city or national electricity grid. A similar problem is apparent both in Kandahar City
and Kandahar’s Shur Andam Industrial Park. The increased costs to businesses of generator power
have questioned the viability of some businesses models, including a Turkish flour milling company
established in Gorimar, which has reportedly ceased production.7 The city power that is available
was also reported to be insufficient for manufacturing or industry with the provincial grid requiring a
complete upgrade, according to the Mazar chapter of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and
Industry (ACCI). Roads in the rural districts, often unpaved and potholed, are also responsible for
5 The Daily Telegraph (UK), ‘Provinces that could be listed for Afghan second stage handover,’ 31 October 2011. Available
at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8860265/Provinces-that-could-be-listed-for-Afghan-second-stagehandover.html
6 Electricity shortfalls are also document in: Sahak, Abdul Latif, ‘Powers of Darkness in Northern Afghanistan,’ Environment
News Service, 5 July 2011. Available at: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2011/2011-07-05-03.html
7 According to AISA, the cost of city power is 9Afs an hour, whereas generator power costs a minimum of 20 Afs. AISA,
along with DoCI, is currently soliciting funds to construct a 23-kilometre supply line from the sub-station at Puli Tasadi to
the industrial park.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 22/102
damaging fruits, such as melons, ensuring that their transport is often uneconomical beyond the
district bazaar.
Although more than a third of the workforce is involved in agriculture, there is only a limited postharvest processing capacity. Value-added agricultural products such as tomato processing, dairy
production, flour milling, do exist, though production remains limited and often dominated by one
or two market actors in each province. The dried fruit and nuts sector has arguably been more
successful in developing national and international markets and has often been the subject of value
chain assistance by development organisations. The growth of the sector has been limited by the
predominance of small-scale farming, poor rural infrastructure, an absence of cold storage, including
at the border, and little local demand for value added products, primarily as a result of high levels of
poverty and subsistence living. One NGO stated that ‘foreign substitutes replace local produce due
to the lack of a value added industry,’ with Iranian yoghurt being used as an example.
Exporting also poses significant challenges for businesses. Exporting consumables runs the risk of
customs delays and the ruin of the product, while obtaining the necessary certificates to export fruit
and nuts often requires an intricate knowledge of Afghan bureaucracy that is beyond the small and
medium sized trader, according to a donor in Kunduz specialising in economic growth. For the
northern provinces, exports to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan require permits and the need for particular
certificates, which leads many traders to export to Pakistan due to the ease of cross-border trading,
facilitated by the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) and its predecessor.8 A
further inhibitor to exporting is the limited business development that Afghan traders can conduct
at international fairs and trade shows, due to the costs and visa issues. Accessing a Tajik visa to
conduct business in Tajikistan officially costs US$100, while several individuals reported the
unofficial price to be between US$500 and US600.
Government corruption, according to one business umbrella group in Mazar-i Sharif, primarily
assumes the form of arbitrary tax rates, ‘often if you have connections, taxes are minimal – no
connections and they vary by year without any regulatory basis.’ Taxes on businesses, therefore, are
often dependent on negotiations that too often appear to disadvantage business owners without a
clear understanding of the tax code and accompanying financial accounts to justify their correct tax
code. Double taxation and bureaucratic red tape are also viewed as being an unnecessary burden on
local businesses, that similar to corruption; increase the costs of doing business.9
Accessing credit, although primarily undertaken through informal means, was also cited as a factor
limiting the growth of business. Microfinance institutions are present, such as BRAC and FMFB,
though due to perceptions that their loans are ‘un-Islamic’, creditors, according to one development
consultant in Kunduz, ‘will not ask for it unless they are in dire straights.’ Shariat compliant loans,
from organisations like FINCA, can result in reported interest rates of up to 30% a year, more
expensive than microfinance loans at around 20-24% including charges. Accessing credit from banks
8 Ministry of Commerce, Pakistan Government, Document outlining the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.
Available at: www.commerce.gov.pk/APTTA/APTTA.pdf
9 Adeli, Sayed Zaher, ‘Balkh Business Faces Bankruptcy,’ The Killid Group, 9 July 2011. Available at:
http://tkg.af/english/reports/political/563-balkh-business-faces-bankruptcy
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 23/102
often requires a minimum loan of US$20,000 and 6-% collateral, which many smaller business
owners would not be able to access.
Women’s limited access to the labour market also most certainly inhibits economic growth. The
labour market survey produced results suggesting that there is perhaps one woman working per ten
males with significant barriers to entry involving family permission, education, societal opinions and
what the director of the Department of Women’s Affairs sees as increasing levels of domestic
violence directed against women. The director went on to explain, that women are often
stereotyped into roles, such as embroidery and cookie making, when they are in fact ‘able to do
anything.’
Photo: Metal workers in (above) and welders (below) in Pul-i Khumri
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 24/102
Pul-i Khumri, Baghlan Province
Pul-i Khumri is the capital of Baghlan province, located north of the Hindu Khush mountain range
and connected to Kabul via the Salang Pass, an engineering marvel reaching an altitude of 3,400
metres. Baghlan is adjoined by six other provinces; Kunduz to the north; Takhar to the northeast;
Panjshir to the east; Parwan to the south; Bamyan to the southwest and Samangan to the west. The
provincial capital is located at the intersection of the national highways linking Kabul with Mazar to
the north and Kunduz city to the northeast. The provinces of Baghlan, Balkh and Kunduz, according
to a government official in Pul-i Khumri, are closely linked through ‘political, trade, economic and
tribal’ relations.
Table 4.1: NRVA: Key Economic and Labour Market Statistics
10
NRVA Data Baghlan
Average
4-Prov
National
Average
Populations (million) 0.8 1.0 24.5
Rural population (%) 80 71.5 77
Poverty rate (%) 18 28.2 35.8
Electricity (% of households) 34.6 36.8 41.1
Per capita monthly total consumption (Afs) 1827 1675.5 1672
Female literacy rate - age 16 and over (%) 9.9 9.3 11.4
Literacy rate - age 16 and over (%) 24.2 19.5 25
Enrolment rate - age 6-12 (%) 62.3 44.1 46.3
LABOUR MARKET
Participation rate (%) 70.7 66.6 66.5
Unemployment rate (%) 5.9 6.7 7.9
Underemployment rate (%) 48 40.7 48.2
Literate labour force (%) 23.6 20.1 25.8
Child labour (% of children age 6-15 engaged in work) 19.2 15.6 17.9
EMPLOYMENT SECTORS
Agriculture (%) 69.4 52.9 59.1
Manufacturing, construction, mining and quarrying (%) 9.1 14.5 12.5
Services (%) 15.7 29.9 24.6
Public administration (%) 5.8 2.8 3.9
4.1 Economic Overview
Baghlan is a leading agriculture producing province with a concentration of fertile agricultural lands
in the districts of Baghlani Jadid in the north and Andarab, Deh Salah, Khwaja Hijran as well as Pul-i
10 ‘Afghanistan: Provincial Briefs, June 2011,’ Ministry of Economy. The data is derived from the National Risk and
Vulnerability report 2007/8. Per capita monthly total consumption is the value of total food and non-food items
consumed by the household in a month divided by the household size. Participation rate is the proportion of the adult
population (16 and older) that is economically active. Underemployment is the share of employed who work less that 35
hours a week.
4.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 25/102
Hisar in the southeast. According to the NRVA data (see Table 4.1), agriculture employs 69.4% of the
provincial population in both subsistence and commercial crops and livestock farming.
Baghlan is in the fortunate position of possessing a broad agricultural base in addition to numerous
natural resource deposits. In the late 1930s, the government of Zahir Shah established a national
capacity to refine sugar and produce textiles. Baghlan was reportedly chosen due to the fertile
agricultural land, plentiful water supply and ample coal deposits, although some local reports
suggest an intention to create a northern manufacturing or industrial base. In 1938, construction
began on an Afghan funded sugar refinery in current day Baghlan Jadid that increased the cultivation
of sugar beet across the north.11 During the same period, the German government began
construction of a textile factory and accompanying hydropower dam in central Pul-i Khumri.12 Upon
completion, the textile factory began sourcing cotton from local farmers in Baghlan, Balkh, Kunduz
and Takhar.
The contemporary industrial sector shares little with its past. The textile factory, according to the
director, employs approximately 450 people, however there are few signs of economic activity. The
factory has received orders for bed linen by the Ministries of Interior and Defence, however
antiquated equipment and little new investment over the last thirty years have rendered the plant
unable to compete with foreign imports particularly from China and Pakistan. The Baghlan sugar
factory, also established in the late 1930s, was damaged during the civil war and then rehabilitated
via a public-private partnership in the early years of the Karzai regime. According to a report
produced in September 2009, the plant was ‘struggling to survive’ as a result of a lack of raw
materials, questionable economic viability, lack of ownership in management and a difficulty in
attracting a technical capacity.13 The factory more recently is believed to be dormant according to a
senior UN officer.
The industrial sector was a major employer in Baghlan through the engagement of factory workers
and tradesmen but also through creating local value chains in cotton, sugar beat as well as wheat for
the silo mill bakery. Labour inputs to the aging industrial sector are no longer comparable to the
number of employees that were engaged prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979, with the textile factory
formerly employing between 3,000 and 4,000 people and sourcing cotton from local farmers in
Baghlan, Balkh, Kunduz and Takhar.
Baghlan also hosts significant deposits of gypsum, coal and gold. In Pul-i Khumri, gypsum deposits
have recently led to the construction of a second cement plant in the district14 and in Dushi the right
to commercially exploit local gold deposits was awarded in late 2010.15 Coal deposits are also to be
11 Peace Security and Development Network (PSDN), ‘Public-Private Cooperation in Fragile States, Case Study Afghanistan
3, New Baghlan Sugar Company,’ September 2009, pp. 4. Available at:
http://www.psdnetwork.nl/documenten/publications/20090901_case_study_3_new_baghlan_sugar_company_.pdf
12 Interview with Engineer Gul Alam, Director of the Textile Factory, Pul-i Khumir, October 2011. Also see Shirzay, Habibur
Rahman, ‘Baghlan power station needs urgent repair, Pajhwok Afghan News, 7 June 2010. Available at:
http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2010/06/07/baghlan-power-station-needs-urgent-repair
13 PSDN, ‘Public-Private Cooperation in Fragile States, Case Study Afghanistan 3, New Baghlan Sugar Company,’
14 Sherzai, Rahman, ‘Ghori cement factory inaugurated,’ Pajhwok Afghan News, 30 July 2011. Available at:
http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2011/07/30/ghori-cement-factory-inaugurated
15 Riechmann, Deb, ‘Afghan government approves gold mine deal,’ Businessweek, 14 December 2010. Available at:
http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9K3I2A80.htm
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 26/102
found in Tala wa Barfak, Dushi and Pul-i Khumri and are currently informally exploited with an
opaque ownership structure. The province’s natural resources, including coal, gold and gypsum have
yet to provide wider economic benefits to the population beyond those involved in their informal
exploitation and individuals informally in control of the deposits.
Pul-i Khumri is the political and economic capital of the province, which was also described as
Baghlan’s ‘job market’ by one key informant due to the scarcity of employment opportunities
beyond agriculture and bazaar trading in the districts. Although agriculture is the primary economic
activity in the province, in Pul-i Khumri it is wholesale and retail trade as well as manufacturing,
including trades such as metalwork and carpentry that predominate. Indirectly, however, agriculture
remains the source of economic activity as the wholesale and retail trading sectors supply
agricultural inputs and sell locally produced products respectively. The transport, manufacturing and
construction sectors are also highly dependent on the agriculture sector. The post-harvest sector,
which has the potential to produce value added agricultural and livestock products, is
underdeveloped and currently reliant on support from NGOs and development agencies. Progress
has been made across value chains including dairy, dried fruit and nuts as well as poultry, which has
led to the establishment of at least one dairy processing centre and the well known Baghlan Cheese
Factory, however questions as to the sustainability of such initiatives remain.16
Although acting as a bridge between Kabul and the northern provinces of Balkh and Kunduz, Pul-i
Khumri is heavily reliant on
agricultural production in place of
services. In support of the NRVA
data, respondents stated that
agriculture remains the sector ‘most
important to the local economy.’ As
illustrated in Figure 4.1, 35.1% of
employers and 39.7% of employees
listed agriculture as the primary
economic activity in the province.
The wholesale and retail sector was
viewed as the second most
important sector second of the local
economy by 20.9% of employers
and 11% of employees.
Figure 4.1: Perceptions of the leading sectors driving the economy
Public administration was listed as having the third most important impact on the local economy
most likely resulting from the number of people employed by the government, including teachers, as
well as the Afghanistan National Security Forces – both the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) as well
as the Afghanistan National Police (ANP). More recently, the Afghanistan Local Police has been
16 Peace Security and Development Network (PSDN), ‘Public-Private Cooperation in Fragile States, Case Study Afghanistan
2, The case of the Baghlan Cheese Factory in Afghanistan,’ September 2009. Available at:
http://www.psdnetwork.nl/index.php?p=Documents&w=Public_Private_Collaboration_in_Fragile_States&page=3
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
Agriculture and Livestock
Wholesale and Retail Trade
Public Administration
Education Providers
Construction
Transportation Employees
Employers
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 27/102
established in Baghlan Jadid, Puli Khumri and is soon to be created in Dahani Ghori and will employ
approximately 300 people per district. The construction industry, after the education sector, was
reported to be the fifth largest contributor to the economy by a grouping of employers and
employees (7.5%). Construction has been one of the primary beneficiaries of the large amounts of
development aid dedicated to infrastructure projects and rural development, starting at the village
level with some community driven products through the National Solidarity Program (NSP) to larger
national projects including the ‘Ring Road’ national highway project.
Table 4.2: Top Ten Primary Sources of Household Income
When respondents were asked to
detail the primary source of their
household income (see Table 4.2),
then perhaps a more representative
picture of Pul-i Khumri’s economy
appears. Whereas agriculture
appears as the predominant
economic sector in provincial data
as well as perceptions by
respondents, direct household
income from farming and livestock
in the provincial capital remains
limited (mean 2%), while the
leading sources of income are more closely aligned with the provision of services and trade, as what
would be expected from an urban provincial economy. Manufacturing, both light and bazaar trades,
was listed as the primary source of income (35%), followed by wholesale and retail trade (34.9%)
and then the previously mentioned public administration (13%), which remains an important local
employer. Interestingly, sewing, embroidery and carpet weaving, traditional roles for women, was
listed by 6% of respondents’ as their most important source of household income.
Business confidence appears to be strong in Pul-i Khumri as 64% of respondents reported that the
number of employees in their firms will likely increase in the following year, differing than a fourprovince average of 50%. Similarly, 53% of employers stated that their company’s revenue has
increased compared with last year.
For employees, one third of respondents claimed that they already have a plan to establish their
own business, while 53% stated their desire to if the opportunity presents itself. Of those intending
to start their own business, 52% would do so in the manufacturing sector, which includes trades
such as metal work and carpentry, 24% in wholesale and retail trading and 13.4% in the manufacture
of carpets, embroidery and sewing. Agriculture and livestock was not mentioned by one respondent.
Sector Employers Employees Mean
Manufacturing (Carpentry,
Electrician, Welding) 43.2% 28.0% 35.6%
Wholesale and Retail Trade 23.3% 26.6% 24.9%
Public Administration 7.5% 18.9% 13.2%
Transportation 3.4% 10.5% 7.0%
Manufacturing (Sewing,
Embroidery, Carpet Making) 7.5% 4.9% 6.2%
Telecoms, IT, Computers 6.2% 0.7% 3.4%
Construction 0.7% 5.6% 3.1%
Hotels, Restaurants 3.4% 2.8% 3.1%
Agriculture and Livestock 1.4% 2.8% 2.1%
Education Institutes, Private
Schools and Universities 2.7% 0.0% 1.4%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 28/102
4.2 Labour Market Survey, Pul-i Khumri
4.2.1 Companies’ Profile
The table below describes the different companies that were surveyed (according to the “cluster then
random” sampling methodology describe in section 1.22.
Table 4.3: Quantitative Sampling Description
Pul-i Khumri Four Cities
ISIC Code
Em p lo ye rs (
%
)
Em p lo ye e s (%
)
M
e an (
%
)
Em p lo ye rs (
%
)
Em p lo ye e s (%
)
M
e an (
%
)
A - Agriculture and Livestock 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.8 1.2 1.5
B - Mining and Quarrying 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 1.1 1.1
C - Manufacturing (Sewing, Embroidery, Carpet Making) 13.7 13.6 13.7 16.2 15.5 15.8
C - Manufacturing (Bakeries, Carpentry, Textiles) 47.7 49.3 48.5 32.0 34.3 33.1
F - Construction 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.2 1.0
G - Wholesale and Retail Trade 26.1 25.5 25.8 40.0 38.6 39.3
H - Transportation 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 1.5 1.5
I - Hotels, Restaurants 3.9 4.0 3.9 2.9 3.5 3.2
J – Communications, Telecoms, IT, Computers 0.7 1.0 0.8 1.7 2.2 1.9
K - Finance - Banks, Money Changers 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
O - Public Administration 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.2
P - Education Providers 7.2 6.3 6.7 1.7 1.2 1.5
Q - Health Providers 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
U - NGOs/IOs 0.7 0 0.3 0.2 0 0.1
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100
The Pul-i Khumri sampling indicates a higher than average number of manufacturing entities
approximating slightly greater than 60% of the total, which is divided into two: manufacturers that
include bakeries, carpenters, furniture makers, tin smiths and similar trades and secondly,
manufacturers that produce clothes, textiles, handicrafts and carpets, which are more likely to
include women participants. Wholesale and retail trade are also underrepresented compared to the
average, which could be partially explained by Baghlan being the sole province not sharing an
international border crossing. Construction companies are also absent most likely a result of some
occupations, such as masons and carpenters considered as manufacturers, rather than being placed
in the construction category. The use of day labourers in the construction industry would also mask
a greater number of construction industry employees being surveyed.
When both employers and employees were asked which labour sectors employ the most people,
respondents listed agriculture (30%), wholesale and retail trade (17%), public administration (15%),
construction (8.6%) and manufacturing (welding, carpentry; 7.2%).
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 29/102
4.2.2 Ownership, Foundation and Licensing
Table 4.4: Year of Company Formation
In answer to whether they had established the companies
themselves, 88% of employers answered positively, whereas
11% inherited the business and only 1% had bought the
company. Almost 65% of companies have been established in
the last ten years following the fall of the Taliban regime, with
one quarter of all businesses being created in the past five
years (see Table 4.4)
Compared with the average of the four provincial capitals, a
smaller number of companies (24.2%) have been registered in
the past five years than the average (37.4%). The difference
could be partially explained by a smaller wholesale are retail trading and services base (26%
compared to an average of 39%) together with a greater degree of business promotion and donor
activities in the other three cities, including the establishment of industrial parks in Mazar and
Kunduz.
Table 4.5: Business Registration
As detailed in Table 4.5, only a minority
of companies reported their businesses
as not being registered (14%), whereas
the vast majority have registered their
business with the municipality. The
municipality provides services to local
traders and shopkeepers, including
‘cleaning and greening’, as well as a local
conflict resolution role between
commercial entities. Registering with the municipality is therefore the most relevant option for local
employers as agencies such as the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) is not present in
Pul-i Khumri and most businesses would not have the critical mass to fully benefit from registering
with either AISA or the Department of Commerce.
Pul-i
Khumri
Mean
(Four
Cities)
1961-70 3.3% 0.9%
1971-80 5.2% 1.8%
1981-90 4.6% 4.1%
1991-2000 22.9% 20.2%
2001-2006 39.9% 35.3%
2006 -2011 24.2% 37.4%
Total 100% 100%
Frequency 152 655
Department/Agency Pul-i Khumri
Mean
(Four
Cities)
Yes, Municipality 71.3% 73.8%
Yes, Department of Finance 13.2% 12.9%
Yes, Department of Economy 1.6% 1.0%
Yes, AISA 0.0% 0.8%
Yes, Department of Commerce 0.0% 0.3%
No 14.0% 11.2%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 30/102
4.2.3. Staffing and Recruitment Channels
Of the 153 employers surveyed, the average number of employees per business was reported to be
3.5, which is slightly less than the four-city average of 4.5 employees (see Table 4.6).
Table 4.6: Average Number of employees (breakdown by age category)
Male
<15
Female
<15
Male
15-24
Female
15-24
Male
24+
Female
24+
Av. No.
Employees
Frequency
Baghlan 0.66 0.13 1.78 0.20 0.66 0.01 3.5 153
Four City Average 0.54 0.11 2.02 0.26 1.40 0.15 4.5 657
A breakdown of employees by age category indicates that approximately half of all employees are
males aged between of 15 and 24 (average 1.78 employee per company), while women aged 24 and
over are the least represented (0.01 employee per company). Cultural attitudes towards women
working in addition to family commitments and the absence of opportunities in traditional bazaar
trades, as reported in key informant interviews and focus groups, contribute to low rates of female
participation in the workforce (see gender and youth section 4.3 for further information).
Table 4.7 details the recruitment methods of businesses in Pul-i Khumri and perhaps what is most
apparent is that approximately 43% of employers rely on either friends of relatives as a recruitment
pool, while 31% of employees access the job market through friends of an employee in an existing
company.
Table 4.7: Recruitment Channels (breakdown by category)
Recruitment Channel Employers Employees
Mean
(4 cities)
Relatives 25.3% 19.0% 25.8%
Friend of employee 11.7% 30.7% 17.0%
Bazaar 22.7% 19.0% 15.6%
Friends 18.0% 16.1% 26.9%
Relatives of employee 15.7% 14.1% 12.1%
Mosque 1.3% 0.5% 1.6%
Radio/TV Advertisement 0.7% 0.5% 0.2%
Newspaper Advertisement 0.3% 0.0% 0.1%
Other 4.3% 2.4% 1.4%
100.0% 100.0% 100.6%
Frequency 153 150 657
Considering that approximately half of employees are males aged between 15 and 24 (see Table
4.6), then this pool of employees is seen by job seekers as an important source of access to the job
market. The trend of employing relatives was supported by a further question to employers on how
many of the company’s employees are relatives of the owner, which equated to 34.3% of all
employees. When employees were asked if they were related to the owner of the enterprise, 50.7%
answered in the affirmative.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 31/102
4.2.4. Employee Contracts and Salaries
Table 4.8 described the current status of employees within their respective companies. The vast
majority of employees (95.3%) reported that they have no formal contract with their employer with
the number of employees almost evenly divided between part-time (48%) and full time work
(51.3%). The number of part time workers is higher than the four-city average (28.5%) indicating a
higher number of people that are underemployed supporting the NRVA data on underemployment
at the provincial level.
Table 4.8: Employee Status
Despite the high number of
employees who considered
themselves to be part-time, the
number of hours worked per week
averaged 43.8 hours, 8 hours less
than the four-city average of 51.8
hours. Considering that
approximately half of employees
stated that they were related to the owner of the enterprise, employees are likely to work six to
seven day weeks with or replacing their relatives, irrespective of whether they consider themselves
to be part of full time. The length of employment followed the average of the four provincial capitals
as 56% of employees stated that they had been working for 2 years or less with their current
employer. Considering that approximately half of employees are aged between 15 and 24, many
employees would be working in their first job. A further 26.7% declared that they have been working
for their current employer for between 3 to 5 years.
Although no link can be empirically established from the data available between hours worked and
average salaries, the number of hours worked in Pul-i Khumri is 18% below the average, while
salaries (see Table 4.9) were reported to be 15.3% below the average.
Table 4.9: Employee Salaries
Afs Frequency Trend
12 months ago Average Salary 2,275 150
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 3,669 ‘0’ = 57
Current year Average Salary 4,013 150 + 76.4%
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 4,561 ‘0’ = 18 + 24.3%
Four-Cities Average Current Salary 4,727 656 + 83.5%
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 5,187 60 + 30.3%
As Table 4.9 details, the average salary reported by employees was 4,013 Afs (US$85) per month and
when employees that stated they receive no salary are removed from the calculation, paid
employees receive an average salary of 4,561 Afs (US$97). Compared to a year prior, the average
salary of employees has increased by 76.4%, which takes into account the number of employees
who were previously not paid and are now receiving a monthly salary. Non-payment of salaries is
particularly prevalent among family businesses, which primarily employ relatives.
Baghlan Mean
Permanent Full Time w/ Formal Contract 2.0% 5.2%
Permanent Full Time, No Formal Contract 49.3% 54.3%
Permanent Part Time w/ Formal Contract 2.0% 4.0%
Permanent Part Time, No Formal Contract 46.0% 28.9%
Self Employed 0.7% 7.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 150 655
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 32/102
4.2.5. Company Revenue and Expenses
All 152 employers replied to a question on their company’s monthly income, although the
authenticity of the answers was not confirmed by any other method. The average income, which
was explained as total revenue, was reported to be 42,349 Afs (US$901), slightly higher than the
average of 41,260Afs for the four cities combined.
Table 4.10: Company Revenue (breakdown by revenue bracket)
Table 4.10 provides a breakdown of company revenue
with the largest share of businesses (26.1%) declaring
their revenue to be between 10,001 Afs and 20,000
Afs a month, which would convert to between US$213
and US$425 and therefore an annual turnover of
US$2,556 to US$5,106. Pul-i Khumri’s revenue
breakdown is comparable to the four-province
average where approximately 60% of businesses
reported revenue of less than 30,000 Afs a month
(US$ 638)
In terms of business expenses, employers reported (based on an average of costs per month) that
salaries (37%) were the highest cost category to the business, which was only slightly lower than the
average four-city average of 40.9%.
Figure 4.2: Operating Costs (breakdown by category)
The second largest defined
operating cost was reported to
be rent (26%), followed by
transport costs (5%) and
communication and heating
(both 4%). Employers were
offered an option to include
other expense and food costs
were reported by 89% of the
113 respondents declaring
‘other’ expenses. If ‘other’
represents food costs in Figure
4.2, then employers’ third
largest operating cost is
providing food for their
employees.
Although income and
expenditure figures should be considered indicative at best, a simplistic break down of average
revenue (42,349 Afs) and expenses (21, 586Afs) for businesses in Pul-i Khumri produces a raw figure
of 20,763 Afs in income per company, approximately 2,000Afs less than the average for the four
cities.
Revenue
Bracket
Pul-i
Khumri
Av. Four
Cities
0-10,000 6.5% 8.9%
10,001-20,000 26.1% 25.8%
20,001-30,000 22.2% 26.9%
30,001-40,000 17.0% 14.7%
40,001-50,000 9.8% 8.0%
50,001-100,000 13.1% 11.4%
100,000+ 4.6% 3.8%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 152 654
Salaries
37%
Rent
26%
Other
24%
Communication
4%
Transportation
5%
Heating
4%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 33/102
4.2.6. Access to Credit and Financing
Accessing credit and financing is primarily undertaken through informal methods. Of 153 employers,
41 or 26.8% declared that they had borrowed money for their business in the last twelve months.
Table 4.11: Sources of Credit and Financing
Of the 26.8% of employers who had accessed
credit, five sources of credit were reported in
Pul-i Khumri, in a similar manner to the other
three provincial capitals. Informal credit sources,
comprising family and relatives in Afghanistan as
well as local shopkeepers in the bazaar provided
64.3% of the total amount of credit issued to
employers. 35.7% of employers approached
formal institutions, including Banks and
microfinance institutions, to access credit.
When employers were asked whether the
extension of credit had had an impact on their business, 60% of employers in Pul-i Khumri stated
that their business had expanded, but only half this figure claiming that profits had improved,
compared to 51.5% of employers who had accessed credit across the four provincial capitals.
Approximately 20% of respondents claimed that their business has not expanded and profits had in
fact decreased. The loan size from all categories of creditors was an average 83,977 Afs (US$1,787),
compared to a four-city average of 81,809 Afs (US$1,741).
When employers were asked whether they intend on developing their business, 51% stated that
they already have a plan to do so, while a further 48.4% of employers declared that if the
opportunity arose, then they would attempt to do so. For employees, the figures were 31.3% and
53.3%, respectively. Both figures indicate a vote of confidence in the local economy. As Table 4.12
illustrates, 45.3% of employers have either enough money to expand their business or could rely on
friends and relatives. Only 10% of employers would attempt to access a formal institution and the
largest percentage (44.7%) of employers is not sure how they would access credit to expand their
business, suggesting that banks and micro-finance institutions have the potential to expand their
loans to small and medium businesses, but require more effective communication to business
leaders. For employees the figures are even more pronounced, with close to four in five potential
entrepreneurs not knowing how they will access credit to develop their business idea.
Table: 4.12: Do you have the needed funds to develop the current activity of your business?
Yes, I have
enough
personal funds
No, but my
family/friends
will assist
No, I plan to
borrow money
from an institution
No, and I still do
not know how to
obtain the funds Frequency
Employers 31.3% 14.0% 10.0% 44.7% 150
Employees 7.1% 8.7% 4.7% 78.7% 122
Average Employers (Four Cities) 40.8% 14.4% 5.2% 39.6% 617
Average Employees (Four Cities) 24.5% 18.1% 3.4% 53.7% 531
Source of Funds
Pul-i
Khumri
Av. Four
Cities
Bazaar 25.0% 19.0%
Friends 21.4% 29.0%
Bank 19.6% 14.6%
Relatives 17.9% 24.5%
Micro Finance Institution 16.1% 12.9%
Local Land Owner 0.0% 0.0%
Money Lender 0.0% 0.0%
Mortgage 0.0% 0.0%
Total 100% 100%
Frequency 41 141
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 34/102
4.3. Gender and Youth
As the survey results illustrate below, women face a particular set of challenges to access the labour
market. The Department of Women’s Affairs (DoWA) stated that illiteracy among women is
estimated to be 90% and that the twin challenges of illiteracy and family permission severely limits
the opportunity to find work. In the districts, virtually the only occupations open to women are as
‘teachers in local schools, shura members or home handicrafts.’ In Pul-Khumri, according to DoWA
and focus group discussions, women have a greater number of opportunities including working in a
small number of NGO supported gender initiatives, including blanket and clothes making as well as
apricot and tomato processing.
Table 4.13: What positions do women occupy in your company?
As Table 4.6 in section 4.2.3 details, the
number of women in the workplace
remains minimal. For the age category 1524, there are ten times as many male
employees as female employees. The
situation is even more pronounced in
other age brackets. The limited presence
of women in the workforce was also
reinforced by only 6.6% of respondents,
both employers and employees, being
women, compared to a four-city average of 9.7%.
Table 4.13 lists the combined responses of employers and employees to the question of what
positions women occupy within their company. In common with the other three subject cities,
approximately 85% of respondents that there were no positions occupied by women. Day labouring
jobs and manual work remains the preserve of males and therefore a low response rate is expected,
however it is interesting to note that 13.4% of 298 respondents in Pul-i Khumri stated that women
occupy apprenticeship positions, or the more informal on the job training, within their companies.
When respondents were questioned as to the obstacles that face women in the workplace and were
allowed more than once choice, a lack of opportunities was cited by 41.2% of employers and 38.7%
of employees as the primary obstacle (see Table 4.14, below).
Family permission was cited by almost 40% of both employers and employees as a significant
obstacle to women working. Considering that women in urban centres are likely to have a greater
‘freedom of movement,’ the figure would most likely be significantly higher in the surrounding
districts. Leena, a 27-year-old female tailor expanded on the subject, ‘Afghanistan is a traditional
country and people are to observe and honour such traditions so many women are not permitted by
family to work out of home and only those (women) can get a long-term job if they have permission
by their family.’
Pul-i
Khumri
Four-city
Average
No Positions 85.3% 84.9%
Apprenticeships (on the job training) 13.4% 10.8%
Junior Management 0.7% 0.2%
Day Labourers 0.3% 0.5%
Office work 0.3% 0.1%
Manual/Labouring work 0.0% 3.5%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 298 1308
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 35/102
Table 4.14: Obstacles women face to work in your sector?
Even before attempting
to access the limited
positions that are
available to women and
ensuring that they have
relevant experience
and qualifications,
perhaps the most
difficult obstacle is
obtaining family
permission.
Handicrafts, carpet making and embroidery, therefore, represent an apparent compromise as the
work is generally undertaken from home. Approximately 18% of respondents also stated that their
sector was ‘not appropriate’ for women, which is traditionally associated with manual labour and
trades or environments that are considered the preserve of males only.
Youth also face challenges to access the labour market. Even though males between 15 and 24
comprise the largest percentage of employees by age bracket within the surveyed businesses, the
‘youth bulge’ ensures that the large number of youth leaving the education system every year find it
very difficult to find employment (see Table 4.6). In the districts, employment opportunities for
youth remain confined to ‘agriculture & livestock and working in the local bazaar,’ according to one
Baghlani working for a development agency. The education system in the districts was reported to
be unable to provide school graduates with the necessary skills to enter the labour market with
workers from the districts of Baghlan often stereotyped as illiterate and fit for day labouring in place
of any skilled occupations. In contrast, youth in Pul-i Khumri were viewed as having a greater level of
access to education and the labour market, due to the centralisation of the education sector in the
provincial capital and the prevalence of trades and services businesses, which are often not
operating in the districts.
In a focus group discussion in Pul-i Khumri with unemployed youth, the participants stated that a
large number of youth join the Afghanistan National Security Forces, either the police or army, while
a further segment of youth travel to Mazar or Kabul to find work, who according to one NGO are
generally the ‘more qualified people.’ The Department of Youth claimed that labour migration is a
widespread phenomenon as ‘from 100 families, 80 families will have a son in Pakistan or Iran. Most
people from northern Afghanistan go to Iran.’ In the majority of instances, according to both DoLSA
and the Department of Youth, youth migrating to Pakistan and Iran provide an important part of
household income through remittances, while many younger men also travel abroad in search of the
money to pay for their wedding, the cost of which can exceed US$10,000.
Labour migration could also be seen to structurally undermine the labour market more broadly as
unqualified youth leave Baghlan in search of work in Iran or Pakistan, while in Pul-Khumri, qualified
Pakistani, many of whom live in Khoja Alwa area, and to a lesser degree Iranian construction workers
and tradesmen assume the higher skilled positions within the construction industry as well as in the
day labouring market. Pakistanis, according to DoLSA are ‘considered cheap, but produce good
Obstacle Employers Employees
Combined
Four-city
Average
Lack of opportunities 41.2% 38.7% 46.3%
Family Permission 39.2% 36.7% 36.7%
Lack of experience 30.1% 32.0% 41.6%
Lack of qualifications (education) 25.5% 26.0% 13.9%
Sector not appropriate for women 17.0% 19.3% 15.7%
Low Salaries 11.1% 14.0% 15.4%
Lacking access to patronage networks 0.7% 2.0% 4.8%
Total 164.7% 168.7% 174.5%
Frequency 153 150 1308
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 36/102
quality work’ and are in particular demand partly as a result of many new house designs originating
from Pakistan. While Afghan youth do gain the work experience abroad, they generally return
unqualified to their former province.
Table 4.15: Positions occupied by 15-24 y.o in your company?
Respondents were then asked similar
questions regarding youth and a very
different set of answers were recorded.
Although it was not articulated,
respondents are understood to be
referring to males, rather than both males
and females due to a prior question
referring to positions that women occupy
in the company.
Approximately two-thirds of employers
and employees work in businesses that employ 15-24 year olds in apprenticeship roles often
involving relatives working in the family business (see Table 4.16). Approximately one quarter of
businesses reported that they employ youth as day labourers, while 4.7% of respondents have
positions open for youth in junior management. The figures contribute to the picture of a labour
market dependent on day labourers and reliant in the informal training of youth in apprenticeship
positions.
In contrast to the obstacles that women are faced with to access the workplace, youth face a
different set of challenges.
Table 4.16: Obstacles youth face to work in your sector?
Respondents, both employers and
employees, viewed a ‘lack of
opportunities’ as the main obstacle
for youth in accessing the job market,
with experience (54.2% employers
and 55.3% of employees) seen as a
greater obstacle than low salaries
and a lack of education. The widest
disparity between the responses of
employees and employers was for
education as 40.5% of employers found that youth lack the educational qualifications to access the
labour market, whereas only 27.3% of employees concurred, suggesting that employees place less
importance on qualifications and more on experience, which would complement the findings in
Table X.X, where day labourers and apprentices comprise 91.7% of positions open to youth.
Pul-i
Khumri
Four-city
Average
Apprenticeships (on the job training) 68.3% 59.5%
Day Labourers 23.4% 18.8%
Junior Management 4.7% 1.7%
Manual/Labouring work 2.0% 7.1%
No Position 1.3% 12.4%
Office work 0.3% 0.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 298 1308
Obstacle Employers Employees
Combined
Four-city
Average
Lack of opportunities 66.0% 62.7% 62.1%
Lack of experience 54.2% 55.3% 60.5%
Low Salary 41.8% 47.3% 42.0%
Lack of qualifications
(education)
40.5% 27.3% 27.7%
Lacking access to
patronage networks
17.6% 20.7% 20.4%
Total 220.3% 213.3% 212.7%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 37/102
Photo: A Mechanic in Pul-i Khumri
4.4. Obstacles to Business Development
Employers were asked to prioritise the obstacles to the development of their business on a fivepoint scale. Table 4.17 combines the obstacles rated ‘4’ and ‘5’ or those considered as a ‘major
obstacle’ or ‘very severe obstacle,’ respectively.
Table 4.17: Major and very severe obstacles to business development
Access to land (64.1%), similar to responses from
the other three provincial centres, was
considered as the primary obstacle by the
majority of the 153 employers interviewed in
Pul-i Khumri. In a focus group discussion, Hashim,
a local businessman, stated ‘it is not easy to find
a shop (and) if the shop is found the rent is very
high’.
Infrastructure inputs also featured prominently
with electricity (63.4%), access to water (25.5%)
and to a lesser degree, communications (11.1%)
also being mentioned as obstacles. From a vocational training point of view, 43.1% of employers
indicating ‘employee skills’ as a major or severe obstacle to business development suggests that
there is a broad need for the development of vocational skills, which has the potential to increase
local skill sets but also increase economic growth. Access to credit was mentioned by 35.9% as a
major or severe obstacle, however in focus group discussions, a lack of start-up capital was
consistently mentioned as an inhibitor to renting a shop front, buying equipment and commencing
trading.
One in five employers reported corruption, which is often viewed as the scourge of economic
growth, as an important obstacle. Urban centres are often immune or only lightly affected by
insecurity and likely explain why only 19.6% of respondents cited insecurity, although in focus
groups, businessmen reported that business ‘had improved’ this year due to the better security
situation.
Pul-i
Khumri
Combined
Four-city
Average
Access to Land 64.1% 70.7%
Access to Electricity 63.4% 67.8%
Employee Skills 43.1% 54.5%
Competition 41.8% 29.4%
Access to credit 35.9% 48.1%
Access to Water 25.5% 30.3%
Corruption 19.6% 21.9%
Insecurity 19.6% 21.9%
Access to Communications 11.1% 21.0%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 38/102
4.5. Training
Results from the labour market survey indicate that both employees and employers have had very
little access to training opportunities, even compared to other cities surveyed for this report. As
detailed in Table 4.18 only 13.1% of employers and 14% of employees have undertaken formal
training. Of the individuals that have been trained, there were overall very positive perceptions of its
utility (see Table 4.19).
Table 4.18: Training and Training Providers
Table 4.18 provides responses from employers on their own training, that of their employees and
finally information from the employees
themselves. The training providers most
frequently mentioned by all three groups
who had been provided training, were
NGOs (6.5% of employers, 2.7% of
employees), private companies (1.3% of
employers, 6.7% of employees) and
education institutes (2.6% of employers,
2% of employees). Internal training,
typically undertaken by the employer or
owner, was reportedly undertaken by
9.8% of total employers, while only 5.3%
of employees stated that they had
received training internally, which is
most likely explained by employers
training employees in the course of their
employment, which employees may
regard simply as working.
Employers
Employers on
Employees Employees
Training Provider Employers
Four-city
Average
Employer
on Employees
Four-city
Average Employees
Four-city
Average
No Previous Training 86.9% 61.2% 77.8% 61.9% 86.0% 62.1%
Internal 1.3% 22.5% 9.8% 30.8% 5.3% 34.2%
NGO 6.5% 5.5% 6.5% 3.2% 2.7% 2.1%
Private Company 1.3% 8.6% 5.2% 11.9% 6.7% 15.3%
Education Institute 2.6% 0.8% 3.3% 0.8% 2.0% 0.7%
Government 1.3% 1.4% 0.7% 0.9% 1.3% 0.9%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 103.3% 109.5% 104.0% 115.2%
Frequency 153 657 153` 657 150 656
Perception of Training
Employers
on Employee
Training Employees
Learned a lot 97.1% 100.0%
Used new skills in workplace 94.1% 95.2%
Increased work performance 94.1% 100.0%
Helps chances of promotion 94.1% 100.0%
Assists towards salary increase 97.1% 100.0%
Would recommend training 97.1% 100.0%
Would like more training n/a 100.0%
Increase chances of better job in
another company
n/a 100.0%
Practical for Workplace n/a 100.0%
Not practical Enough n/a 4.8%
Boring n/a 4.8%
Don’t understand why I went to
training
n/a 0.0%
Table 4.19: Perceptions of completed training
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 39/102
In regards to the perceived utility of the training from those individuals that participated, high rates
of satisfaction were recorded for practicality and career enhancing opportunities, with few
individuals finding the training ‘boring’ or ‘not practical enough,’ as illustrated in Table 4.19.
Given several options, 62.1% of all employers stated that they would prefer that their employees
undertook training in the evenings and hence after the workday. A further 27.5% of employers
declared that they would prefer apprenticeships as a training option for their employees, whereby
the apprentices attend a vocational training centre or similar institution in the morning or afternoon
and then return to the workplace for the alternate part of the day.
Of the employers whose employees had undertaken training, 79% stated that they would not be
willing to pay weekly training costs, which contributed to an average willingness to pay of 156 Afs
per week, half the four-city average of 317 Afs. Approximately 15% of employers paid for the
training themselves, while the rest of the respondents claimed that either public institutions (61.8%)
or NGOs (23.5%) had paid for the training, which has possibly contributed to a perception among
some employers that training should be provided as a service free of charge, rather than a paid for
benefit to the company. Costs were cited by 70.6% of all employers as an important or severe
obstacle to sending their employees for training (see Table 4.20).
Despite the reticence for employers to pay for training, 84.3% responded that they need additional
skills to develop their business and 97.3% of employees who have a plan to develop a business or
would do so if the opportunity arose, also reported that training would be beneficial to develop their
intended business. Costs and Time, as detailed in Table 4.20 were reported as the major constraints,
followed by distance (average 56.1%) and family commitments or obligations (52.7%).
Table 4.20: Important or severe obstacle to training
Important or Severe
Obstacles Cost Time Distance
Family
Obligations Frequency
Employers 70.6% 77.8% 56.2% 39.9% 153
Employers on Employees 78.4% 70.6% 56.2% 58.2% 153
Employees 78.0% 70.0% 56.0% 60.0% 151
Average 75.7% 72.8% 56.1% 52.7%
Certificates awarded by training institution continue to be seen as a valued commodity as 49.7% of
all employers reported, when asked to consider recognised training certificate, that they were the
‘most important’ criterion, while a further 39.2% of employers stated that they were taken into
account along with other criteria.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 40/102
Box 1: Day Labourers and Labour Migration
Day or casual labouring is an inherent part of Afghanistan’s labour market. In provincial centres,
dozens and in some instances hundreds of men line the streets in an unofficially designated area to
find temporary work either for the day or several days. Most of the day labourers are from the
surrounding districts, often illiterate and with no formal training. The current drought across the
north of the country has also had an effect on the day labouring market as observers in Mazar-i
Sharif and Pul-i Khumri stated that the number of day labourers from northern provinces had
increased in recent months as the failure of the harvest became apparent.
At 07:00 on a weekday in Kunduz not far from the main square, at least 200 men await prospective
employers with the majority of work being offered in construction or manual labouring. The work is
seasonal and flows with the supply and demand of the local economy. In Mazar-i Sharif, daily
construction jobs were reported to be the most common destination for daily workers, while in
Kunduz over the summer months it is not as easy to find daily workers as they are employed in the
agriculture fields across the province, while returning to the daily labour markets in mid September
to take advantage of an construction or labouring jobs. Many local workers then migrate to Pakistan
for the winter season as agricultural and construction jobs dry up. In Kandahar City, the proximity to
Pakistan alters the dynamic of the market with many day labourers working in agriculture during the
summer and turning to construction over the winter or alternatively travelling to Pakistan as
agriculture work slows down.
Photo: Day Labourers in the morning in Kunduz City.
There is also a semblance of structure to the day labouring market as prices are not fixed for a daily
rate and are open to negotiation with more qualified master builders or experienced tradesmen able
to charge a higher daily rate. When labour is in abundance, such as mid-September to Mid-October
in Kunduz City, daily prices can fall to 250Afs, while in peak harvest season, labour becomes scarce
and prices can double to 500Afs a day. For the more skilled labour, such as master builders or the
limited number of formally qualified tradesmen, daily prices can reach 1,000Afs. The influx of day
labourers from Faryab, Samangan, Sar-i Pul and Jawzjan in light of widespread crop failures have led
to a subsequent drop in daily rates. Commission agents are also present in the day labour market
and attempt to match demand with supply and take a commission for each labour placement. It is
questionable whether they fulfil a market facilitator role or are closer akin to predatory actors.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 41/102
Pakistani day labourers are especially sought after, as they are perceived as being able to perform
higher quality work, primarily in the construction industry and are reportedly capable of organising
teams to complete partial or full constructions of some houses and buildings. A further advantage,
confirmed in the three northern cities, is that Pakistani labour is also deemed to be cheaper than
equivalently trained or experienced Afghan day labourers. The reason was explained as a result of an
oversupply of skilled tradesmen in Pakistan, which has made the Afghan labour market more
attractive.
Labour migration to Pakistan and Iran is intrinsically linked to the day labourer markets. Many day
labourers work during the harvest time in Baghlan, Balkh, Kandahar and Kunduz and then leave to
work in Pakistan as the weather becomes colder in Afghanistan. According to the Department of
Youth in Pul-i Khumri, approximately 4 in 5 households have at least one male family member in
either Iran or Pakistan, while the same department in Kunduz estimated the figure at 50%. It was
explained that Iran is the favoured destination for Afghans from the north and Pakistan for the south
an east of the country, partly due to language, but also due to previous refugee patterns and the
presence of family and friends in those countries. As Iran’s border policies have become more
stringent, a greater number of people are migrating to Pakistan. A large proportion of the labour
migrants are unskilled, illiterate and from the districts where employment opportunities are limited,
although as the Department of Youth in Kunduz claimed, 12,000 people graduate from year 12 last
year and a further 200 from the faculty and there are few jobs available leading many to consider
emigrating abroad.
In both Pakistan and Iran, most labour migrants work in the construction industry or in manual
labouring jobs. The duration of their stay can be either season or can last several years. The
remittances often provide an important source of household income for the families in Afghanistan
serving in times of drought or economic hardship as a coping mechanism. Many young males also
emigrate in order to accumulate enough money for their wedding, which can exceed US$10,000. In
addition to labour emigration, there is also a large number of youth, with no precise numbers
available, who travel to Pakistan to either commence or continue their Islamic education in
madrassas. Although in the 1980s and the 1990s, the practice was commonplace, in recent years
returning madrassa students have often been viewed as a threat by the security establishment after
having been ‘radicalised’ during their Islamic education by the Taliban or other opposition group.
Addiction in returning labour migrants in Iran also led one senior police official in a northern
province to claim, ‘we send out youth away as there are no jobs and they come back from Pakistan
as militants and from Iran addicted.’
In Kandahar as well as the three northern cities, skilled Pakistani tradesmen including master
builders, masons and carpenters fill the ‘skills gap’ in the urban labour markets. They are widely
viewed as possessing higher skill levels, are capable of completing contract work as well as day
labouring and their daily rates are often below those of Afghans with lower skill levels or experience.
At the macro level, it means that labour migrants, lacking skills, leave for Pakistan and Iran to
undertake unskilled work, while qualified Pakistanis and to a lesser degree Iranians, pursue skilled
work in Afghan urban centres due to the lack of formally qualified individuals.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 42/102
Mazar-i Sharif, Balkh Province
Mazar-i Sharif is the capital of Balkh province, located in the far north of Afghanistan bordering
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Balkh shares four provincial boundaries with Kunduz to the
east, Samangan to the southwest, Sar-i Pul to the southwest and Jawzjan to the west. Balkh has
traditionally been an important trading and centre of political power resulting from its location at
the historical crossroads of Central Asia, China, the Indian sub-continent and Persia.
Table 5.1: NRVA: Key Economic and Labour Market Statistics
NRVA Data Balkh
Average
4-Prov
National
Average
Populations (million) 1.2 1.0 24.5
Rural population (%) 64 71.5 77
Poverty rate (%) 60.3 28.2 35.8
Electricity (% of households) 55.3 36.8 41.1
Per capita monthly total consumption (Afs) 1,298 1675.5 1,672
Female literacy rate - age 16 and over (%) 16.8 9.3 11.4
Literacy rate - age 16 and over (%) 26.8 19.5 25
Enrolment rate - age 6-12 (%) 53.5 44.1 46.3
LABOUR MARKET
Participation rate (%) 68 66.6 66.5
Unemployment rate (%) 8.2 6.7 7.9
Underemployment rate (%) 29.1 40.7 48.2
Literate labour force (%) 26.6 20.1 25.8
Child labour (% of children age 6-15 engaged in work) 20.8 15.6 17.9
EMPLOYMENT SECTORS
Agriculture (%) 38.5 52.9 59.1
Manufacturing, construction, mining and quarrying (%) 16.2 14.5 12.5
Services (%) 43.2 29.9 24.6
Public administration (%) 2.1 2.8 3.9
5.1 Economic Overview
Balkh’s economy is predicated upon trade and services (43.2%), agriculture (38.5%) and
manufacturing (16.2%), which includes construction in the government’s NRVA statistics (see Table
5.1). In the provincial capital, the economic importance of agriculture decreases being partly
replaced by the trade and services sector and to a lesser degree manufacturing.
In the districts, however, agriculture and livestock remains the predominant economic activity with a
comparatively limited retail and rudimentary services sector. For more advanced service provision,
such as qualified builders, carpenters, mechanics and electricians, local contractors will often be
dependent on providers from Mazar. In the districts of Balkh, Chahar Kint, Dawlatabad, Dehdadi,
5.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 43/102
Kaldar and Sholgara, carpet production has diversified many households’ reliance on agriculture. The
large logistics/trading town of Khairatan is located in Kaldar district, which has reportedly benefited
economically through local employment and the provision of services, although the larger and more
skilled construction contracts are primarily awarded to Mazar based companies.
Approximately 67% of rural households have access to irrigated land and 28% to rain-fed land.17
Cash crops include barley, cotton, flax, maize, melon/water melon, sesame, tobacco and wheat with
fruit and nuts also an important income generator for rural households as favourable climatic
conditions and agricultural land supports two harvests a year.
Balkh and Mazar-i Sharif more specifically serve as both an export/import hub as well as regional
trading centre for northern Afghanistan.18 Trade flows between Afghanistan have significantly
increased since the beginning of 2008 as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has
opened and expanded the use of the ‘northern distribution network,’ primarily using the Khairatan
port of entry in order to reduce the dependence on existing routes through Pakistan via the border
crossings of Spin Boldak, Kandahar Province, and Torkham, Nangahar Province.. Although total trade
has increased significantly, Afghanistan has a large trade deficit with Central Asian states primarily as
a result of the distorting effects of supplies for the international military presence. For example,
according to the Central Statistics Office for the year 2009/2010 Afghan imports from Uzbekistan
totalled US$876 million– a five-fold increase from 2007/8 (US$167million). Of the total trade with
Central Asia, imports from Uzbekistan comprise 70% (US$1,244 million; 2009/2010) reaffirming
Afghanistan’s trade imbalance.19
For Mazar, and Balkh more broadly, the trade imbalance has shaped the provincial economy.
According to the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Mazar, exports are primarily
confined to ‘almonds, pistachios, walnuts, carpets, oils, wood, sesame, and wool.’ The Chamber also
stated that the import/export sector is the ‘primary business activity in the province,’ indicating that
the majority of the economic activity is therefore undertaken in the importation, transport, logistics
and internal trading of imported goods.
Balkh has benefited both directly and indirectly from the increased flow of trade. Directly, customs
duties have increased provincial revenues and the border crossing of Khairatan has expanded its role
into a warehousing, logistics and transport hub for Northern Afghanistan. Indirectly, the province’s
transport infrastructure has been fundamentally redeveloped, including the creation of a new
railway line to Uzbekistan, the construction of a new airport terminal and highways heading to the
northeast, south and northwest of Afghanistan. Numerous companies in the agriculture, carpet,
construction, horticulture, logistics, and light industries sectors have established a presence in Mazar
to benefit from the province’s northern economic linkages and access to international markets.20
Businesses have also attempted to add value to traditional markets such as carpet production and
agriculture, by introducing cutting and washing facilities for the carpet industry and grading,
17 Balkh Provincial Development Plan, NRVA 2005 statistics on irrigation/rainfall. Available at:
www.eggi.af/resources/provincial_development_plans/balkh.pdf
18 Mazar-i Sharif will be shortened to Mazar for the remainder of the report.
19 CSO statistics derived from Norling, Nicholas, ‘Afghanistan’s trade with Central Asia Revives,’ Central Asia Caucasus
Institute, 27 April 2011. Available at: http://www.cacianalyst.org/?q=node/5544
20 Mazar-i Sharif will be shortened to Mazar for the rest of the report.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 44/102
packaging and processing capabilities for the agricultural sector, which has traditionally been highly
reliant on local markets.
Afghan exports are primarily concentrated in the agricultural sector, including dried fruit and nuts,
although the export potential is limited due an underdeveloped post-harvest processing sector,
which is often dependent on international donors and NGOs along the length of the value chain.
Nuts and dried fruit especially have had some successes in export markets as Afghanistan has
managed to find a comparative advantage in their production. Mazar is considered to be
Afghanistan’s fourth largest nut market and the largest in the north of Afghanistan and is perhaps
illustrative of the city’s position as a regional trading hub.
As the hub for northern economic activity, Mazar retains extensive links with other northern
provinces from Badakhshan in the far northeast to Faryab in the northwest as well as to the national
capital, Kabul. In contrast to it’s provincial neighbours, Mazar is in the advantageous position of
acting as a distribution point for imported goods, while offering higher end services and possessing a
limited processing capability for regional agricultural products. According to AISA in Mazar, Balkh
sells locally made items such as ‘shoes, chocolate, candies, biscuits and tomato based products’ to
other northern provinces, while also acting as a gateway for imports ranging from fuel to building
supplies. Mazar is also the centre for higher end services, such as advanced mechanics and
construction services, thereby negating the need for residents of provinces closer to Mazar to travel
to Kabul. In return, other northern provinces rely on Mazar as a market for locally produced
agricultural products, a supplier of imported goods and an important trading hub for exports or
other internal markets.
Mazar’s strong economic position has also supported the political aspirations of the provincial
governor since 2004, Attar Mohammad Noor. As a leading figure within the former mujahideen
faction Jamiat-e Islami, Noor has often been at odds with President Karzai and positioned himself as
the pre-eminent political figure in the north of the country. Allegations of corruption fuelling
entrenched patronage networks, primarily the governor’s political supporters, have also
accompanied his political rise and have resulted in some of the larger ‘oil, wood trading, fertilizer
and construction’ companies in Balkh reportedly being owned or operated by close supporters of
the governor.21
Due to Mazar’s larger population, the quantitative sample size was increased to 200 employers and
200 employees in place of 150 each for the other three cities. Both employers and employees were
asked which economic sectors drive the local economy and the results are graphically illustrated in
Figure 5.1. Agricultural activity was reported to be the primary contributor to the local economy,
according to approximately 30% of employers and employees, which would take account of the
value that agriculture provides to other sectors, including trading and manufacturing.
The education sector (15.6%), wholesale and retail trade (12.6% employers, 8% employees) followed
by manufacturing (minus carpet weaving and embroidery; 10.6% of employers and 8% of
employees) were perceived to be the other main drivers behind the economy. The education sector
is primarily referring to private schools, institutes, training and literacy centres, which are numerous
21 Gall, Carlotta, ‘In Afghanistan’s North, Ex-Warlord Offers Security, New York Times, 17 May 2010, available at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/18/world/asia/18mazar.html?ref=world
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 45/102
in Mazar and perhaps explains why 15% of total respondents stated that the education sector was
the most important to the local economy.
Mazar is also resident to a well-developed construction sector, which supports a myriad of
supporting trades, including carpentry, engineering, masonry and master builders, but also a
network of suppliers. The industry has benefited from increased spending on national infrastructure
projects including the ‘ring road,’ the Balkh railway project, but also more localised developments
including housing developments, industrial parks, secondary roads, rural development projects and
commercial spaces within Mazar.22
The government, in partnership with international donors, has attempted to capitalise on Mazar’s
strategic location by constructing at least two industrial parks in the provincial capital. The industrial
park in Gorimar is
approximately 800 jeribs, of
which AISA manages 125 jeribs
and DoCI, the rest. DoCI also
owns and manages a further
industrial park in the Sher Khan
area totalling between 800 to
1,000 jeribs with plans to
develop a further industrial
area in Mazar with an intended
size of 5,000 jeribs, although
planning permission is pending.
Figure 5.1: Perceptions of the leading sectors driving the economy
The industry and manufacturing sector in Mazar, despite the advent of industrial parks, remains
largely underdeveloped. According to DoCI there are 210 private industrial interests in Balkh,
although only 80 are currently active. The industrial parks have encouraged a new generation of
light-manufacturing concerns to be established, often with donor support, although infrastructure
shortfalls, primarily that of electricity, have hampered growth within the industrial sector. For
example, at the AISA managed industrial park in Gorimar, there are currently ‘four to five’
companies operating in the following sectors: oxygen supply, soya bean processing, carpet cutting
and washing, a paper press and a motorbike assembly plant. A Turkish company involved in flour
milling has reportedly halted production after initially starting with three production shifts a day,
due to the high costs of generator-produced electricity as currently the industrial park does not have
access to state supplied electricity lines. Both the soya processing and flour milling company are
reliant on automated processes and therefore rely on limited labour inputs.
22
Balkh Railway – Asian Development Bank Project Document, available at: www.adb.org/Documents/RRPs/AFG/42533-AFGRRP.pdf The national ring road project is being completed by the ADB after initial funding by USAID. Further information
can be found at: http://beta.adb.org/news/videos/adb-fund-completion-afghanistan-ring-road
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
Agriculture and Livestock
Education Providers
Wholesale and Retail Trade
Manufacturing (Carpentry,
Welding)
Public Administration
Construction Employees
Employers
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 46/102
Table 5.2: Top Ten Primary Sources of Household Income
In a breakdown of the household
income of both employers and
employees, a more representative
picture emerges of the urban
economy of Mazar, rather than the
province more broadly.
Manufacturing, which includes
small scale furniture making,
welding, and other ‘bazaar
manufacturing’ is the largest source
of household income from among
both employer and employee
respondents. The aforementioned wholesale and retail trade (23.8% average) catering to the urban,
rural and neighbouring provincial markets, is also well represented. Agriculture, employing 38.5% of
the labour force across the province according to the NRVA and viewed by 30% of respondents as
being the main driver of the local economy represents only 3.0% of the primary sources of
household income in Mazar among employers and employees.
Confidence in the local economy, as represented by changes in revenue over the past twelve months
and intent to hire new workers is similar to the four-city average for respondents, but less than in
Pul-i Khumri. 36.8% of employers claimed that their revenue had increased over the last twelve
months (compared to 52.3% in Pul-i Khumri) with a further 34.3% stating that revenues had
declined. In terms of future hiring, 44.3% of employers declared their intent to hire new employees
over the next year, approximately 6% less than the average. For employees, 43.3% responded that
the number of employees would increase within their present company, while 32% did not know.
Employees, in a further measure of business confidence, were also asked whether they intend on
establishing their own business ‘at some point in the future.’ Of 203 respondents, 36% replied that
they already have plans to establish a business, while a further 41.4% claimed that they would set up
a business if the opportunity arose. The figures are approximately in line with responses from all
four cities (43.5% planning to set up a business and 37.7% if the opportunity arises). When asked to
state which sector they would create a business, two sectors were dominant: Manufacturing
(43.9%), that includes carpentry, furniture making, welding etc, and wholesale and retail trade
(43.9%).
Sector Employers Employees Mean
Manufacturing (Carpentry,
Electrician, Welding)
35.1% 27.8% 31.5%
Wholesale and Retail Trade 20.4% 27.2% 23.8%
Transportation 6.3% 10.1% 8.2%
Manufacturing (Sewing,
Embroidery, Carpet Making)
10.5% 4.4% 7.5%
Construction 5.2% 5.7% 5.5%
Telecoms, IT, Computers 8.4% 0.6% 4.5%
Hotels, Restaurants 3.7% 3.2% 3.4%
Agriculture and Livestock 1.6% 4.4% 3.0%
Mining and Quarrying 3.7% 0.0% 1.8%
Banks, Money Changers, Hawala 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 47/102
5.2 Labour Market, Mazar-i Sharif
5.2.1 Companies’ Profile
The table below describes the different companies that were surveyed (according to the “cluster then
random” sampling methodology describe in paragraph 1.2.2.
Table 5.3: Quantitative Sampling Description
Mazar-i Sharif Four Cities
ISIC Code
Em p lo ye rs (
%
)
Em p lo ye e s (%
)
M
e an (
%
)
Em p lo ye rs (
%
)
Em p lo ye e s (%
)
M
e an (
%
)
A - Agriculture and Livestock 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.8 1.2 1.5
B - Mining and Quarrying 3.5 3.5 3.5 1.1 1.1 1.1
C - Manufacturing (Sewing, Embroidery, Carpet Making) 10.5 9.5 10.0 16.2 15.5 15.8
C - Manufacturing (Bakeries, Carpentry, Textiles) 38.5 42.1 40.3 32.0 34.3 33.1
F - Construction 2.0 1.8 1.9 0.8 1.2 1.0
G - Wholesale and Retail Trade 34.5 30.8 32.7 40.0 38.6 39.3
H - Transportation 3.5 3.5 3.5 1.5 1.5 1.5
I - Hotels, Restaurants 3.0 3.8 3.4 2.9 3.5 3.2
J – Communications, Telecoms, IT, Computers 4.5 5.0 4.8 1.7 2.2 1.9
K - Finance - Banks, Money Changers 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
O - Public Administration 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.2
P - Education Providers 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 1.2 1.5
Q - Health Providers 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
U - NGOs/IOs 0.0 0 0.0 0.2 0 0.1
TOTAL (%) 100 100 100 100 100 100
Manufacturing was the largest labour group captured from interviewing 201 employers and 203
employees in Mazar. Combining both groups of manufacturers, they represent approximately 50%
of the total respondents. Mazar’s position as a regional trading hub is supported by 32.7% of
respondents working in the wholesale and retail trade sector. Other sectors of note include
communications (4.8%), mining and quarrying (3.5%), transportation (3.5%), hotels and restaurants
(3.4%) and construction (1.9%).
In answer to a question regarding which sector employs the most people in Mazar, 20.4% of
employers and 28.6% of employees stated agriculture and livestock, followed by wholesale and
retail trade (28.8% employers, 13.3% employees), which was followed by construction (13.9%
employers, 9.4% employees). 13.4 % of employers also stated that NGOs and international
organisations are the largest employers, perhaps due to the large number of NGOs based in Mazar.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 48/102
5.2.2 Ownership, Foundation and Licensing
Table 5.4: Year of Company Formation
In answer to whether they had established the companies
themselves, 85.6% of employers responded in the affirmative
with a further 13.4% stating that they inherited the business,
while 1% had bought the business. The figures are very much
in line with the four-city averages. Surprisingly, the number of
businesses established in the last five years (24.2%) is well
below the average (37.4%), although still the majority of
businesses (64.1%) were formed after 2001 (see Table 5.4).
Table 5.5: Business Registration
Table 5.5 details the different agencies
and departments where businesses can
register. Businesses are reportedly
obliged to register with the Department
of Commerce and/or AISA as well as their
respective line department. For example,
the Department of Education for
education training centres and the
Department of Public Works for
construction companies, whereas registering with the municipality is often a process of identifying
companies to the local council, although companies are increasingly only registering with the
municipality, as evidenced in Table 5.5.
Considering there are few perceived benefits from registering with AISA or the Department or
Commerce for small and medium size enterprises, then it is understandable to find 73% of
companies only registering with the municipality, whereas 19.5% have registered with the
Department of Finance. Only 2.7% of companies are not registered compared to an average of
11.2% for the four cities, which could be possibly explained by Mazar being considered the
bureaucratic capital of northern Afghanistan and hence possessing a greater level of government
capacity. Registering with the municipality is the logical choice for many small businesses as the
municipality’s role in cities is to provide services to local businesses and residents, including cleaning
and maintaining local streets and waste control, greening and cleaning local parks, adjudicating local
disputes between shopkeepers and businesses and where capacity exists eliciting donor funds for
development or local infrastructure projects.
Mazar-i
Sharif
Mean
(Four
Cities)
1961-70 3.3% 0.9%
1971-80 5.2% 1.8%
1981-90 4.6% 4.1%
1991-2000 22.9% 20.2%
2001-2006 39.9% 35.3%
2006 -2011 24.2% 37.4%
Total 100% 100%
Frequency 202 655
Department/Agency
Mazar-i
Sharif
Mean
(Four
Cities)
Yes, Municipality 73.0% 73.8%
Yes, Department of Finance 19.5% 12.9%
Yes, Department of Economy 2.2% 1.0%
Yes, AISA 1.6% 0.8%
Yes, Department of Commerce 1.1% 0.3%
No 2.7% 11.2%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 49/102
5.2.3. Staffing and Recruitment Channels
Of the 153 employers surveyed, the average number of employees per business was reported to be
4.2, which is slightly less than the four-city average of 4.5 employees (see Table 5.6).
Table 5.6: Average Number of employees (breakdown by age category)
Male
<15
Female
<15
Male
15-24
Female
15-24
Male
24+
Female
24+
Av. No.
Employees
Frequency
Mazar-i Sharif 0.40 0.14 2.00 0.40 0.97 0.32 4.2 201
Percentage 9.5% 3.3% 47.6% 9.5% 23.1% 7.6% 100.0%
Four-City Average 0.54 0.11 2.02 0.26 1.40 0.15 4.5 657
Although the average Mazar firm surveyed has a slightly lower number of average employees per
business, the percentages of employees by age category are similar. Males comprise 80% of the
workforce of the companies surveyed, which is the most inclusive of the four cities that average
88.6% males in the workforce. The importance of 25-24 years old males to the labour market is also
true for Mazar as 42.4% of employees are from this age category or two per company.
Women are most represented in the 15-24 year old age bracket totalling 9% of all employees.
Table 5.7 details the recruitment methods utilised by employers as well as the methods that job
seekers rely upon to gain employment. Friends and relatives are the primary method for both
employers to find employees and for job seekers to access the job market.
Table 5.7: Recruitment Channels (breakdown by category)
Recruitment Channel Employers Employees
Mean
(4 cities)
Relatives 28.8% 29.4% 25.8%
Friends 28.0% 24.6% 26.9%
Relatives of employee 12.4% 23.2% 12.1%
Friend of employee 15.8% 11.9% 17.0%
Bazaar 12.4% 10.2% 15.6%
Mosque 1.0% 0.7% 1.6%
Newspaper Advertisement 0.3% 0.0% 0.1%
Radio/TV Advertisement 0.3% 0.0% 0.2%
Other 1.0% 2.4% 1.4%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.6%
Frequency 153 150 657
Following friends and relatives or friends and relatives of company employees, 12.4% of employers
and 10.3% of employees cited the local bazaar as the primary mechanism to secure employment.
Table 5.7 highlights the importance of social bonds in recruitment trends and how many businesses
are family affairs.
When employees were asked whether or not they were related to the owner of the company, 35.6%
of all employees answered positively, again underlining the familial nature of many small and
medium size businesses.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 50/102
5.2.4. Employee Contracts and Salaries
Table 5.8 represents the data on the status of employees within their respective companies. Only 7%
of employees possess a formal contract with their employer – emphasising the informal nature of
the legal relationships between employer and employees and also reinforcing the notion of family
businesses, where no contact would be required due to familial relationships.
Table 5.8: Employee Status
Fulltime employees with no formal
contract represent the largest category
of employees at 58.9% with permanent
part time employees with no contrast
close to comprising one third of all
employees (30.7%). Employees were
also asked how many hours a week they
work, which included part time, full time
as well as self employed (3.5%) individuals. Mazar recorded an average working week of 45.3 hours,
which was the lowest of the four cities that averaged 51.8 hours worked per week.
From 203 employee respondents, 56% declared that they have been working for their present
employer for two years or less, 29% for between 3 and 5 years and 14.8% for 6 to ten years. The
figures were aligned with the four city average and considering that 42.4% of employees are males
aged between 15 and 24, many employees would be working in their first job.
Employees receive an average monthly salary of 4,856 Afs (US$103), which is comparable to the
average (see Table 5.9).
Table 5.9: Employee Salaries
Afs Frequency Trend
12 months ago Average Salary 2,849 150
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 4,554 ‘0’ = 76
Current year Average Salary 4,856 150 + 70.5%
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 5,387 ‘0’ = 20 + 18.3%
Four-Cities Average Current Salary 4,727 656 + 83.5%
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 5,187 60 + 30.3%
The difference between the average salary and the category of respondents who reported being
paid ‘0’ is that many of the employees who reported being paid nothing a year ago, have entered
paid employment, possibly as a result of being unpaid family members ‘helping out’ previously,
individuals on a trial period or alternatively and perhaps more plausibly, that the individuals were
unemployed a year ago.
The salary figure of 5,387 Afs (US$115) should therefore be considered closer to the average for paid
employment on a monthly basis.
Mazar Mean
Permanent Full Time w/ Formal Contract 3.0% 5.2%
Permanent Full Time, No Formal Contract 58.9% 54.3%
Permanent Part Time w/ Formal Contract 4.0% 4.0%
Permanent Part Time, No Formal Contract 30.7% 28.9%
Self Employed 3.5% 7.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 202 655
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 51/102
5.2.5. Company Revenue and Expenses
In Mazar, 201 employers were surveyed and the results of their reported monthly revenue and
operating costs are presented below.
Table 5.10: Monthly company Revenue (breakdown by revenue bracket)
Monthly revenue was broken down by revenue
bracket with the largest percentage of employers
(27.9%) declaring their revenue to be between 20,001
Afs and 30,000 Afs followed by 21.4% between 10,001
Afs and 20,000 Afs. The average monthly revenue for
all firms surveyed was 40,880 Afs (US$870) a month,
marginally lower than the four-city average of 41,260
Afs (US$878). Approximately 55% of businesses report
revenues of below 30,000 Afs (US$638) a month.
Employers were also asked to identify monthly expenses by category and salaries (42.6%) were then
calculated as the primary costs to businesses, only slightly higher than the average of 40.9%
Figure 5.2: Operating Costs (breakdown by category)
Rent amounted to the
second largest cost to
businesses totalling 32% of
costs. An averge of rent
payments places Mazar as
the most expensive city to
rent a business space as the
mean cost amounts to 5,985
Afs, slightly more than 800As
above the four city average.
Other costs (12%) were
overwhelmingly comprised
of food costs for the
employees, which was then
followed by transportation
(7%), communication (5%)
and then heating (1%).
A simplistic calculation of businesses average income (revenue minus costs) produces a monthly
income of 4,013 Afs (US$85) a month.
Revenue
Bracket
Mazar-i
Sharif
Av. Four
Cities
0-10,000 5.5% 8.9%
10,001-20,000 21.4% 25.8%
20,001-30,000 27.9% 26.9%
30,001-40,000 17.9% 14.7%
40,001-50,000 8.5% 8.0%
50,001-100,000 15.4% 11.4%
100,000+ 3.5% 3.8%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 201 654
Salaries
43%
Rent
32%
Other
12%
Communication
5%
Transportation
7%
Heating
1%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 52/102
5.2.6. Access to Credit and Financing
Of the 201 employers surveyed in Mazar, 19.9% or 40 companies responded that they borrowed
money in the last twelve months.
Table 5.11: Sources of Credit and Financing
Table 5.11 provides information on the five
sources of credit accessed by 40 businesses.
Formal institutions - microfinance organisations
and banks - amounted to 40.8% of loans, while
informal avenues of credit – relatives, friends
and the local bazaar – comprised the other
59.8%. Local landowners, moneylenders and
taking a mortgage, were not options that were
selected by any of the respondents in the four
cities.
The average loan amounted to 92,500 Afs
(US$1,968), marginally greater than the average loan of 81,809 Afs (US$1,741). Employers were also
asked what effect accessing credit had had on their business. 40% of respondents claimed that the
business had grown and profits had increased while a further 20% stated that the business had
expanded but profits had not increased. A further 17.5% reported the business not expanding but
profits rising, while 22.5% declared that their business had neither grown nor increased profits
Approximately 60% of all employers declared that they already have plans to further their business,
while only 5.5% did not express an interest in doing so and 35% expressed the sentiment that they
would do so if the opportunity arose. For employees, 36% responded that they have a plan to start a
business and a further 41.4% of employees would attempt to do so, again if the opportunity arose.
For both employers and employees over three quarters of respondents expressed intent to either
open or consider opening a new business.
Table 5.12 details the availability and credit options for both employers to develop their businesses
or for employees to set up a new enterprise. Approximately 40% of employers already have
sufficient funds to develop their business, while only 11.5% of employees have the same capacity,
which could be attributed to their younger age and lack of access to their own savings or family
assets. More than 50% of both categories report that although they would like to either develop or
start a business, they do not know how to access a credit facility, whether formal or informal.
Table: 5.12: Do you have the needed funds to develop the current activity of your business?
Yes, I have
enough
personal funds
No, but my
family/friends
will assist
No, I plan to
borrow money
from an institution
No, and I still do
not know how to
obtain the funds Frequency
Employers 40.2% 13.8% 5.8% 40.2% 188
Employees 11.5% 19.1% 6.4% 63.1% 157
Average Employers (Four Cities) 40.8% 14.4% 5.2% 39.6% 617
Average Employees (Four Cities) 24.5% 18.1% 3.4% 53.7% 531
Source of Funds
Mazar-i
Sharif
Av. Four
Cities
Micro Finance Institution 24.1% 12.9%
Relatives 22.2% 24.5%
Friends 22.2% 29.0%
Bank 16.7% 14.6%
Bazaar 14.8% 19.0%
Local Land Owner 0.0% 0.0%
Money Lender 0.0% 0.0%
Mortgage 0.0% 0.0%
Total 100% 100%
Frequency 40 138
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 53/102
5.3. Gender and Youth
Women and youth face particular challenges in accessing the labour market. This section will firstly
address the case of women, followed by youth in Mazar.
In focus group discussions with women in Mazar-i Sharif, education was emphasised as a key
determinant of opportunity. Those women that were educated had the possibility to work with the
government, NGOs and the private sector, whereas illiterate women were reported to have few
opportunities beyond tailoring and handicrafts.
Soria, a 24 years old tailor in Mazar, stressed the importance of education for women ‘because
educated people can increase their income and (savings) through a plan and take part in the
economic growth of the country.’ Marzia, a 22-year-old working in a stationary shop, outlined the
different career opportunities for literate and illiterate women: ‘women who are educated support
their family income by working in government organisations, and illiterate women do the job of
tailoring, handicraft, carpet weaving.’
Table 5.13: What positions do women occupy in your company?
Table 5.6 (above) breaks down the average
number of women by age bracket from
among the 202 businesses surveyed in
Mazar. Women have the highest rates of
participation in the 15 to 24 year old age
bracket representing 9.5% of total
employees. Overall, women comprise
20.5% of the surveyed workforce.
Both employers and employees where
asked what positions occupy within their
business and the results are displayed in Table 5.13. Mazar displays a similar picture to the other
three surveyed cities as 85.6% of respondents stated that there were no women or positions for
women within their workplace. Almost 14% of respondents stated that women work in
apprenticeship roles or on the job training, while the remainder (1%) was employed as day
labourers. There were no women reported to be working in junior management, office work or
manual labouring jobs.
Women face numerous obstacles to access the labour market and Table 5.14 lists a series of
responses from employers and employees. As multiple options could be chosen, the percentage of
responses is greater than 100. A lack of opportunities (40.8% employers, 41.9% employees) and a
lack of experience (40.8% employers, 36.5% employees) were the leading obstacles cited. In a focus
group discussion, women also stated that they find it difficult to find employment, as they do not
have the necessary experience or vocational training in the first place to apply.
Mazar-i
Sharif
Four-city
Average
No Positions 85.4% 84.9%
Apprenticeships 13.6% 10.8%
Day Labourers 1.0% 0.5%
Manual/Labouring work 0.0% 3.5%
Junior Management 0.0% 0.2%
Office work 0.0% 0.1%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 404 1308
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 54/102
Table 5.14: Obstacles women face to work in your sector?
Traditions or cultural
attitudes towards
women working were
also considered a factor
as Marzia, the tailor,
stated: ‘the view point
of public is different
people (between those)
who live in cities (and)
have good image for
women that work and
those who live around the city and do have not have a good image for women that work.’ Habiba, a
20 year old decorator shared her sentiments, ‘the view point of society on women that work is
different for educated people (that) have a good imagination and illiterate people think it is not good
for women to work outside.’
A combined 33.65% of respondents believed that their sector was not appropriate for women, while
18.9% of employers and 18.2% of employees stated that family permission was an obstacle for
women wishing to enter the workforce.
Youth also face particular difficulties in entering the labour market. According to one estimate,
approximately 68% of the Afghan population is under the age of 25, which creates severe stresses
on the education system and the ability of youth to find employment once they have finished their
education.23 Key informant interviews in Mazar suggest that even with a tertiary education degree,
finding a job can be extremely difficult. Asif, an agriculture faculty graduate from the University of
Balkh, finished his degree is 2007 and a year after less than 10% of his former classmates had found
employment and less than half of that was in agriculture. The phenomenon was confirmed by an
NGO working with the university that also suggested that students are not prepared for the job
market upon graduation and lack the necessary practical skills. Few individuals reportedly find
positions within the field they study. Youth in the districts, often associated with high levels of
illiteracy, reportedly find work in agriculture and livestock in their district, migrate to Iran or Pakistan
or finally, find work as a day labourer or cart hauler in the bazaars in Mazar. Although a larger
number of options exist, in interviews and focus groups, individuals reiterated the few choices
available for youth.
In a focus group discussion, Habibullah a 22-year-old unemployed man stated that ‘70% of youth are
out of a job,’ which was partly resulting from a ‘government (that) does not pay attention to youth.’
In the same focus group of youth, participants stated that the primary jobs available to educated
youth include the government, NGOs and construction firms, while illiterate or uneducated youth
work as day labourers, apprentices, agricultural workers, drivers or join the ANSF.
23
United Nations Development Program, National Joint Youth Program,
http://www.undp.org.af/whoweare/undpinafghanistan/Projects/dcse/prj_youth.htm
Obstacle Employers Employees
Combined
Four-city
Average
Lack of opportunities 40.8% 41.9% 46.3%
Lack of experience 40.8% 36.5% 36.7%
Sector not appropriate for women 33.3% 34.0% 41.6%
Family Permission 18.9% 18.2% 13.9%
Lack of qualifications (education) 17.9% 14.3% 15.7%
Low Salaries 12.4% 16.3% 15.4%
Lacking access to patronage networks 9.0% 7.9% 4.8%
Total 173.1% 171.0% 174.5%
Frequency 202 202 1308
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 55/102
Table 5.15: Positions occupied by 15-24 y.o in your company?
Table 5.15 displays the responses to a
question on what positions do youth fulfil
in your company. The responses should be
considered as referring to male youth
rather than both sexes as questions on
women were asked immediately prior.
A higher than average percentage of youth
were reported to be working as
apprentices or being informally being
trained on the job (68.3%). A further 23.4%
of combined respondents stated that youth in their business primarily occupy positions as day
labourers, while junior management positions (4.7%), manual labouring (2%) and office work (0.3%)
comprised the other roles.
Table 5.16: Obstacles youth face to work in your sector?
In a similar question which was asked
regarding women, respondents were
also asked whether the categories in
Table 5.16 were obstacles facing
youth in accessing the labour market.
Approximately two thirds of
employers and employees found that
there is a lack of opportunities for
youth, which was followed by a lack
of experience (59.2% employers,
51.2% of employees). Greater
concerns were expressed by employees (49.3%) on whether low salaries were an obstacle,
compared to employers (34.3%). Qualifications were also a greater concern by employers as
approximately one third labelled them as an obstacle while close to one fifth of employees did the
same.
A combination of factors most likely contributes to high levels of labour migration to Pakistan or Iran
amongst Mazar youth. Even though Mazar is considered the economic hub of northern Afghanistan,
a lack of jobs, few formal training opportunities, and the economic needs of many households are
the primary push factors, which send many youth to neighbouring countries. A lack of job
opportunities, more broadly, was mentioned by both the Department of Youth as well as youth in
focus groups as a cause of drug addiction and anti-government or illegal activities.
Mazar-i
Sharif
Four-city
Average
Apprenticeships (on the job training) 68.3% 59.5%
Day Labourers 23.4% 18.8%
Junior Management 4.7% 1.7%
Manual/Labouring work 2.0% 7.1%
No Position 1.3% 12.4%
Office work 0.3% 0.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 404 1308
Obstacle Employers Employees
Combined
Four-city
Average
Lack of opportunities 68.7% 67.0% 62.1%
Lack of experience 59.2% 51.2% 60.5%
Low Salary 35.3% 49.3% 42.0%
Lack of qualifications
(education)
34.3% 22.7% 27.7%
Lacking access to
patronage networks
16.4% 23.2% 20.4%
Total 213.9% 213.3% 212.7%
Frequency 202 202 1308
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 56/102
Photo: A Carpenter in Mazar-i Sharif
5.4. Obstacles to Business Development
The following section addresses the major obstacles that are facing businesses in Mazar. On a scale
of 1 to 5, employer were asked to rate the obstacles detailed in Table 5.17, with 4 equalling a major
obstacles and 5 referring to very severe obstacle, both of which are combined and represented
below.
Table 5.17: Major and very severe obstacles to business development
Land or rent prices were reported across all
provinces as a severe obstacle and there is no
exception in Mazar as 71.6% of employers
confirmed it as the primary obstacle facing
businesses. Although certain areas of Mazar have
a regular supply of electricity, large parts of the
provincial capital are without electricity and culd
explain why 67.2% affirmed access to electricity
and the associated costs of generator power as a
significant cost to their operations.
Employees’ skills were the third highest reported
obstacle as despite a large day labouring market near the provincial governor’s office, skilled
employees are difficult to find and retain. Competition remains near the average for the four cities
(28.9%) and not only refers to local competition, according to key informant interviews, but also
cheaper imports from Uzbekistan, Pakistan and China that are sold at cheaper prices than they can
be produced in the bazaar. Windowsills were one example that was provided as pre-made
windowsills arrive from China at a cheaper price that the local carpenters can produce them.
Corruption was also comparable to the average. In interviews in Mazar, individuals and business
representatives, stated that taxes are often arbitrarily imposed without recourse to verified financial
statements or audits. The lack of accounting or book keeping skills among employers, reportedly
limits their ability to ‘negotiate,’ as it was termed, with the authorities.
Mazar-i
Sharif
Combined
Four-city
Average
Access to Land 71.6% 70.7%
Access to Electricity 67.2% 67.8%
Skills of the employees 44.8% 54.5%
Access to Water 37.8% 30.3%
Access to credit 29.9% 48.1%
Competition 28.9% 29.4%
Corruption 21.9% 21.9%
Insecurity 21.9% 21.9%
Access to Communications 19.4% 21.0%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 57/102
5.5. Training
The following section provides a brief overview of previous training provided to employers and
employees, their level of satisfaction with the training as well as the obstacles that both employers
and employees are faced with to participate and/or provide training.
Table 5.18: Training and Training Providers
Employers
Employers on
Employees Employees
Training Provider Employers
Four-city
Average
Employer
on Employees
Four-city
Average Employees
Four-city
Average
No Previous Training 79.6% 61.2% 82.6% 61.9% 83.7% 62.1%
Internal 2.0% 22.5% 4.5% 30.8% 3.4% 34.2%
NGO 1.0% 1.4% 1.0% 0.9% 1.0% 0.9%
Private Company 9.5% 5.5% 4.5% 3.2% 4.9% 2.1%
Education Institute 8.0% 8.6% 6.0% 11.9% 8.4% 15.3%
Government 0.0% 0.8% 0.0% 0.8% 0.0% 0.7%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 98.5% 109.5% 101.5% 115.2%
Frequency 201 657 201 657 203 656
Table 5.18 provides information on whether employers, their employees, or the employees that
were surveyed have received training and by whom. In Mazar, compared to the average, there are
very low levels of training in the surveyed businesses. Approximately four in five employers and
employees have not received training in their current employment. Very few internal training
opportunities were provided (3.4% of employees report internal training), while the major external
providers of employee training were education institutes (8.4%) and private companies (4.9%).
Table 4.19: Perceptions of completed training
The few employers that
did provide training to
their employees expressed
a high degree of
satisfaction with the
results (see Table 5.19). In
a similar manner,
employees also rated the
training very highly, with
only a minority regarding
the training as either not
practical enough (18.2%)
or boring (3%).
Perception of Training
Employers
on Employee
Training Employees
Learned a lot 97.1% 100.0%
Used new skills in workplace 94.1% 95.2%
Increased work performance 94.1% 100.0%
Helps chances of promotion 94.1% 100.0%
Assists towards salary increase 97.1% 100.0%
Would recommend training 97.1% 100.0%
Would like more training n/a 100.0%
Increase chances of better job in another company n/a 100.0%
Practical for Workplace n/a 100.0%
Not practical Enough n/a 18.2%
Boring n/a 3.0%
Don’t understand why I went to training n/a 21.2%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 58/102
The timing for potential employee training is very important to businesses owners and 61.7% of all
employers stated that they evenings would be convenient (respondents could provide more than
one response), while almost a third of employers would favour apprenticeship style training for their
employees. Mornings were only selected by 5% of respondents.
The cost of training is also significant considering the low revenue streams and economic situation of
many employees. Of the employers who did put their employees on training courses, only 17.1% of
employers paid for the course, with public institutions paying or providing for 48.6% of the trainings
and NGOs undertaking 31.4% of all employee training sessions. 57.1% of employers who had already
provided training to employees would not pay for training, while those remaining employers would
pay an average of 606 Afs a week, although the sample size is only 15 businesses.
Employers who are looking at developing their businesses and employees examining the possibility
of establishing their own business stated that additional skills would help them in pursuit of their
goal, as confirmed by 83.1% of employees and 90.6% of employees.
Table 5.20 details the major obstacles facing employers and employees in the pursuit of training.
Respondents were asked to rate the following out of 5, with 1 being no obstacle, 4 being an
important obstacle and 5 a very severe obstacle. Results for 4 and 5 have been tabulated and
expressed as a percentage of total respondents. For employers, time was the major factor (77.8%),
while for employees with a lower budget, cost (67%) was perceived as a greater obstacle than time
(60.2%).
Table 5.20: Important or severe obstacle to training
Important or Severe
Obstacles Cost Time Distance
Family
Obligations Frequency
Employers 63.0% 77.8% 56.2% 39.9% 201
Employers on Employees 64.0% 58.4% 44.4% 52.8% 201
Employees 67.0% 60.2% 45.2% 55.2% 203
Average 64.7% 65.5% 48.6% 49.3%
Certificates were well received by employers in Mazar as 50.7% of employers believe that they are
the most important criterion when recruiting new employees, while a further 42.5% stated that they
also take other criteria into account.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 59/102
Box 2: The Industrial Sector
Until the 1970s, Afghanistan’s industrial companies employed thousands of people in Pul-i Khumri,
Kandahar and Kunduz and to a lesser degree in Mazar-i Sharif. In Kandahar, the Nesaji textile factory
employed 3,000 people; the textile factory in Pul-i Khumri also employed between 3,000 and 4,000
people and constructed over 1,000 homes, a school and a hospital for their employees; while the
Spinzer factory in Kunduz City formerly produce soap, oils and textile and employed approximately
2,000 people.
Afghanistan’s former industrial capacity remains a source of pride, but also a source of curiosity. On
repeated occasions residents in Kunduz City and Pul-i Khumri, in reference to a past industrial
capacity, asked how, with all the
development aid that has been spent,
has there been no investment in an
industrial sector that would produce
locally needed items and employ the
many thousands of unemployed that
are looking for jobs. In Baghlan, both
the textile factory along the banks of
the Kunduz River in Pul-i Khumri and the
sugar factory in Baghlan Jadid district,
were constructed in the late 1930s.
Photo: The shuttered Spinzer Textile Factory in Kunduz City
The textile factory, along with the hydro-electricity dam that still provides Pul-i Khumri with
electricity, were constructed by Germany, while the sugar factory was domestically funded by a
coterie of influential individuals. By the 1970s, the equipment was considered dated enough for a
delegation from a German Industrial museum to visit the site to examine the possibility of
purchasing the functioning machinery for their museum.
During the years of conflict, the Pul-i
Khumri textile factory stayed open,
while the sugar factory terminated
production as the workers joined the
Mujahideen parties and sugar beet
production declined. Currently, the
Nesaji textile factory in Kandahar
remains closed, the Baghlan sugar
factory received an injection of funds
post-2001 to restart production,
however a public-private partnership
attempted revive production though
reports suggest that this has not been successful. Photo: the Pul-i Khumri
Textile Factory
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 60/102
The Pul-i Khumri textile factory remains open continuing to employ a reported 450 people,
according to the director, who is still in charge of the maintenance of the now 80 to 90 year old
equipment.
Although there is a degree of nostalgia attached to Afghanistan’s former industrial concerns, the
factories that do remain, like the textile factory in Baghlan, utilise antiquated equipment, have
received little if any capital investment and are staffed by quasi-government officials, who are
reportedly paid even less than government bureaucrats. They are unable to compete with textile
imports from China or Pakistan and to modernise the factories would mean virtually starting from
zero. Although the Pul-i Khumri factory has received orders for bed sheets from the Ministries of
Interior and Defence, the government has previous little money to supports its operations, let alone
a capital injection, and private investors and donors are cautious of private-public partnerships with
the government and the costs associated with a totally redevelopment.
Contemporary industrial ventures, including the cement factory in Pul-i Khumri (photo below) are
largely private sector initiatives involving a number of partners with influential connections to the
centre of power. The cement factory is part owned by Mahmoud Karzai and benefits from local
gypsum deposits. A second cement factory has also recently opened in Pul-i Khumri. The cement
factories efficiency is questionable as most workes appears to leave around lunchtime and a
member of the Provincial Council has complained that the state has seen no tax receipts from the
company over the past five years.
Photo: The cement factory in Pul-i Khumri
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 61/102
Kandahar City, Kandahar Province
Kandahar City is the historical capital of Kandahar province. Over the centuries, the city has
benefited from its position along the trading routes between Kabul to the north, Quetta (Pakistan)
to the southeast and Herat and hence Iran to the west. The city was named the capital of the newly
created nation by Ahmad Shah Durrani in the late eighteenth century and again during the Taliban
regime and is today considered Afghanistan’s second city.
Table 6.1: NRVA: Key Economic and Labour Market Statistics
NRVA Data
Kandahar
Average
4-Prov
National
Average
Populations (million) 1.1 1.0 24.5
Rural population (%) 66 71.5 77
Poverty rate (%) 22.8 28.2 35.8
Electricity (% of households) 25.4 36.8 41.1
Per capita monthly total consumption (Afs) 2066 1675.5 1672
Female literacy rate - age 16 and over (%) 1.3 9.3 11.4
Literacy rate - age 16 and over (%) 7.3 19.5 25
Enrolment rate - age 6-12 (%) 10.8 44.1 46.3
LABOUR MARKET
Participation rate (%) 54.1 66.6 66.5
Unemployment rate (%) 4.4 6.7 7.9
Underemployment rate (%) 22.4 40.7 48.2
Literate labour force (%) 10.3 20.1 25.8
Child labour (% of children age 6-15 engaged in work) 0.7 15.6 17.9
EMPLOYMENT SECTORS
Agriculture (%) 45.3 52.9 59.1
Manufacturing, construction, mining and quarrying (%) 10.6 14.5 12.5
Services (%) 42.5 29.9 24.6
Public administration (%) 1.6 2.8 3.9
6.1 Economic Overview
Kandahar is overwhelmingly an agriculture-producing province centred on the western districts of
Arghandab, Kandahar City, Maiwand, Panjwayi and Zhari although across the province subsistence
as well as cash crops are also cultivated. According to the NRVA figures, approximately 45% of
Kandahar’s labour force is engaged in agriculture (see Table 6.1). Maiwand is particularly known for
cotton and tobacco, while also cultivating grapes, pomegranates and mulberries along with the
districts of Zhari and Panjwayi. Post harvest processing is largely confined to nuts and dried fruit,
although attempts have been made to create a viable export market for pomegranates. A variety of
vegetables are also sold across the border in Pakistan with many Pakistani traders buying directly
6.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 62/102
from Kandahari farmers, in many instances through advance credit in return for a percentage of the
harvest. Kandahar is also a leading opium producing province with a concentration of cultivation in
the districts of Ghorak, Khakrez, Maiwand, Nesh, Panjwayi, Spin Boldak and Zhari, according to
UNODC.24
The services sector, employing approximately 42.5% of the labour forces, is highly dependent on
cross border trade with Pakistan. The border crossing at Waish in the district of Spin Boldak is
Afghanistan’s second busiest border crossing after Torkham in Nangahar province. ISAF supply
convoys comprise a significant percentage of cross border trade in order to supply numerous bases
and complexes in Kandahar as well as further a field. The Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade
Agreement (APTTA) as well as previous agreements ensuring the free flow of goods and services
between the countries have ensured that both Torkham and Spin Boldak are vital to Afghanistan’s
strategic and economic interests.25 Afghanistan exports agricultural products, including vegetables,
fruit, nuts and opium and imports a variety of second hand goods, automotive parts and whole
vehicles, clothes, construction equipment, electronic goods, fuel and foodstuffs to name but some of
the imports. Kandahar also serves as a regional hub for the southern provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan
and Zabul, while also acting as the transit point for goods destined for Kabul, which has contributed
the high level of employment in the services sector.
Agricultural production dominates the districts and many residents travel to Kandahar city for
services and bureaucratic functions, although high levels of insecurity have limited access and
decreased inter-district travel due to the indiscriminate nature of many attacks. The insecurity has
also affected dairy, fruit and nut value chains as traders report increased yields, but the sector is
restrained by the insecurity, which decreases the levels of contacts between traders and farmers,
has damaged orchards and increased transport costs.26
Kandahar City, in addition to the provision of services, also hosts a limited manufacturing base. In a
similar manner to Mazar, an industrial park has been created in Shur Andam Area of District 5,
Kandahar City, which caters to approximately 100 ‘factories’ ranging from car parts to cotton and
shoe manufacturing. Electricity has again been a major issue for tenants, with subsidised generator
electricity being the only option, which is only a temporary solution until the subsidies run out. The
reliance on generator power throughout most of Kandahar City and the surrounding districts has
acted as a major deterrent to new investments, together with the insecurity, due to the high costs of
operating a business on generator electricity. City power may be restored, however this is
dependent on whether the Kajaki Dam hydropower plant can become fully operational. The
hydropower plant was constructed by USAID in the 1950s and since 2002, the international
community, primarily the US, has spent US$90 million in an attempt to provide Kandahar city with a
more permanent source of power. In the meantime, generator power attempts to provide
Afghanistan’s second largest city with an adequate source of power, however the high costs, despite
24 United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), ‘Afghanistan Opium Survey 2011, Winter Rapid Assessment for the
Central, Eastern, Southern and Western Regions,’ January 2011, pp. 19. Available at: www.unodc.org/documents/cropmonitoring/Afghanistan/ORAS_report_2011.pdf
25 Pakistani Ministry of Commerce, Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), available at:
www.commerce.gov.pk/Downloads/APTTA.pdf
26 Afghan, Sediq, ‘Fruit exports grow despite conflict,’ The Killid Group, 4 June 2011. Available at:
http://tkg.af/english/reports/others/527-fruit-exports-grow-despite-conflict
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 63/102
subsidies and questionable reliability have undermined business confidence and has most likely
offset investments.27
In Figure 6.1, both employers and employees were asked which is the sector that contributes most
to the local economy. Perhaps surprisingly, 24.7% of employers and 19.9% of employees declared
that the education sector is the
largest driver of the economy,
which is similar to the four-city
average of 19.3% for both
categories of respondents,
although other sectors were placed
before education in other
provinces. Wholesale, retail trade
and services (19.3% of employers
and 21.2% of employees) and
agriculture (15.3% of employers
and 15.9% of employees) were the
main sectors identified after
education.
Figure 6.1: Perceptions of the leading sectors driving the economy
In contrast to perceptions of the leading sectors of the economy, the origins of household income
suggest an urban economy that is predicated upon trade and small-scale manufacturing.
Table 6.2: Top Ten Primary Sources of Household Income
Wholesale and retail trade
represents 50% of both employers
and employees primary source of
household income. Of note is that
manufacturing associated with
sewing, embroidery and carpet
making – occupations traditionally
associated with women in the home
– was reported by 22.5% of
employers as the main source of
income, greater than manufacturing
associated with carpentry, furniture
making and similar enterprises. Agriculture, the mainstay of the surrounding districts, was reported
by an average of 3.5% of respondents as their main household income.
27 Watson, Paul, ‘Kandahar Struggles for reliably electricity,’ The Star, 25 January 2011. Available at:
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/927928--kandahar-struggles-for-reliable-electricity See also: Naadem, Bashir Ahmad,
‘Kandahar to have more power supply,’ Pajhwok Afghan News, 25 October 2011. Available at:
http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2010/10/25/kandahar-have-more-power-supply
Sector Employers Employees Mean
Wholesale and Retail Trade 51.7% 45.7% 48.7%
Manufacturing (Sewing,
Embroidery, Carpet Making)
22.5% 4.3% 13.4%
Manufacturing (Carpentry,
Electrician, Welding)
11.9% 10.4% 11.1%
Transportation 0.7% 10.4% 5.5%
Construction 2.0% 6.1% 4.0%
Agriculture and Livestock 4.0% 3.0% 3.5%
Hotels, Restaurants 3.3% 2.4% 2.9%
Telecoms, IT, Computers 0.7% 0.6% 0.6%
Banks, Money Changers, Hawala 0.7% 0.0% 0.3%
Mining and Quarrying 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
Education Providers
Wholesale and Retail Trade
Agriculture and Livestock
Manufacturing (Sewing,
Embroidery, Carpet Making)
Construction
Manufacturing (Carpentry,
Welding)
Employees
Employers
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 64/102
Photo: Women embroiders and tailors in Kandahar City
As a measure of the strength of the local economy employers were asked whether their revenue had
changed over the previous 12 months. From 152 responses, 38.8% reported that revenue had
improved, while 27% declared that revenue had stayed the same, much in line with responses from
the other three subject cities. In a measure of the economic outlook, 44% of employers believe that
they will employ more people over the following 12 months with only 3.3% believing that the
number of their employees will decrease. Approximately 38% of employees also reported that the
number of employees in their respective companies will likely increase.
In a further measure of the economic outlook, 60.5% of employees stated that they intend on
establishing their own business ‘at some point in the future, ‘ significantly above the four-province
average of 43.5%. When a follow up question asked, which sector the current employee would like
to establish their new business, 54.5% of respondents declared their interest in the wholesale and
retail trade business, which would support qualitative reports of the younger generation, lacking
employment opportunities, pursuing self-employment in the retail trade sector. The manufacturing
sectors, equally divided between trades such as furniture making and metalwork that are associated
with the bazaar and carpet making and weaving, were listed as the equal second choice of
prospective entrepreneurs at 16.3% each.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 65/102
6.2 Labour Market, Kandahar City
6.2.1 Companies’ Profile
The table below describes the different companies that were surveyed (according to the “cluster then
random” sampling methodology describe in section 1.22.
Table 6.3: Quantitative Sampling Description
Kandahar City Four Cities
ISIC Code
Em p lo ye rs (
%
)
Em p lo ye e s (%
)
M
e an (
%
)
Em p lo ye rs (
%
)
Em p lo ye e s (%
)
M
e an (
%
)
A - Agriculture and Livestock 4.8 4.7 4.7 1.8 1.2 1.5
B - Mining and Quarrying 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 1.1 1.1
C - Manufacturing (Sewing, Embroidery, Carpet Making) 23.1 22.7 22.9 16.2 15.5 15.8
C - Manufacturing (Bakeries, Carpentry, Textiles) 12.9 12.4 12.6 32.0 34.3 33.1
F - Construction 0.7 1.3 1.0 0.8 1.2 1.0
G - Wholesale and Retail Trade 53.7 55.2 54.5 40.0 38.6 39.3
H - Transportation 0.7 0.7 0.7 1.5 1.5 1.5
I - Hotels, Restaurants 2.7 3.0 2.9 2.9 3.5 3.2
J – Communications, Telecoms, IT, Computers 0.7 0.7 0.7 1.7 2.2 1.9
K - Finance - Banks, Money Changers 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
O - Public Administration 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.2 0.2 0.2
P - Education Providers 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 1.2 1.5
Q - Health Providers 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
U - NGOs/IOs 0.0 0 0.0 0.2 0 0.1
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100
Considering Kandahar’s position as a trading city it is perhaps not surprising that 54.5% of all
employers and employees surveyed work in the wholesale and retail trading sector, which also
provides services to the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Manufacturing that is traditionally
undertaken by males including carpentry and metal work equated to 12.6% of all companies,
whereas carpet making, handicrafts and clothes making companies totalled 22.9% of all
respondents. The influence of the agricultural sector in Kandahar City was also recorded in 4.7% of
businesses.
Both employers and employees were also asked which sector employs the most people in Kandahar
City, 21.5% of all respondents viewed the wholesale and retail sector as the primary employer,
followed by 18.3% seeing the education sector as the largest employment sector and thirdly 16.7%
for agriculture and livestock.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 66/102
6.2.2 Ownership, Foundation and Licensing
Table 6.4: Year of Company Formation
Similar to other cities, 81.6% of employers in Kandahar City
reported that their company had been established in the past
ten years. The figure is testament to the dramatic changes
that have occurred to the provincial economy in the last
twenty years as well as the confidence to conduct business
despite the return of insecurity in recent years.
Table 6.5: Business Registration
Table 6.5 lists the various departments
and agencies where businesses register
their activities. In Kandahar 71.2% of
employers reported that their business
was registered with the municipality.
Registering with the municipality often
negates any need to register with other
agencies and departments and therefore
the figure is also an indication of the size
and geographical focus of the surveyed businesses. Approximately one in five employers reported
that their business was not officially registered, the highest of the four cities.
Kandahar
City
Mean
(Four
Cities)
1961-70 0.0% 0.9%
1971-80 0.0% 1.8%
1981-90 0.7% 4.1%
1991-2000 17.1% 20.2%
2001-2006 38.8% 35.3%
2006 -2011 42.8% 37.4%
Total 100% 100%
Frequency 152 655
Department/Agency Pul-i Khumri
Mean
(Four
Cities)
Yes, Municipality 71.2% 73.8%
Yes, Department of Finance 8.2% 12.9%
Yes, Department of Economy 0.7% 1.0%
Yes, AISA 0.0% 0.8%
Yes, Department of Commerce 0.0% 0.3%
No 19.9% 11.2%
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6.2.3. Staffing and Recruitment Channels
Of the 152 employers surveyed, the average number of employees per business was reported to be
6.2, greater than the four-city average of 4.5 employees (see Table 6.5).
Table 6.6: Average Number of employees (breakdown by age category)
Male
<15
Female
<15
Male 1524
Female
15-24
Male
24+
Female
24+
Av. No.
Employees
Frequency
Kandahar City 0.55 0.07 2.62 0.05 2.82 0.07 6.2 152
Percentage 8.9% 1.1% 42.3% 0.8% 45.5% 1.1% 100.0%
Four-city Average 0.54 0.11 2.02 0.26 1.40 0.15 4.5 657
Of the total number of employees declared by employers, 96.9% of employees are male with males
greater than 25 years old comprising 45.6% of all employees. Kandahar has the lowest rates of
female participation in the workforce and should be viewed against the backdrop of more
conservative attitudes to working women. Young males represent 42.4% of employees.
Friends and relatives remain the primary method to both recruit new employees and to find a job.
Even though Kandahar reported the lowest number of employees declaring that they work for a
relative (24.9%), family businesses could be viewed as an extension of the family as young men are
trained in the occupation of their fathers or uncles from a relative young age, which provides an
important measure of economic security for families while also being cost effective.
Table 6.7: Recruitment Channels (breakdown by category)
Recruitment Channel Employers Employees
Mean
(4 cities)
Friends 33.4% 30.4% 26.9%
Relatives 28.4% 27.6% 25.8%
Relatives of employee 11.6% 18.0% 12.1%
Friend of employee 11.3% 11.7% 17.0%
Bazaar 11.6% 9.2% 15.6%
Mosque 3.4% 2.8% 1.6%
Newspaper Advertisement 0.0% 0.4% 0.1%
Radio/TV Advertisement 0.0% 0.0% 0.2%
Other 0.3% 0.0% 1.4%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.6%
Frequency 201 203 657
Recruitment in the labour market is very much determinant on informal social links with friends,
families and colleagues in the bazaar that ensures a degree of security for the employer. Formal
methods of recruitment, including newspapers and radios are not utilised.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 68/102
6.2.4. Employee Contracts and Salaries
Very few employees possess a formal contract with their employer. Of 152 employees surveyed,
11.8% working full time and 3.3% working part time possess a contract, whereas 70.4% of
respondents, working either full or part time, have no contract. Almost double the numbers of selfemployed people were reported in Kandahar than the average.
Table 6.8: Employee Status
Employees, including both part and
full time, were asked how many
hours a week they worked.
Responses in Kandahar were the
highest of the four cities, registering
60.9 hours per week, 40% higher
than in Pul-i Khumri
Employees were also asked to state how long they had been working for their current employer and
65.8% replied two years or less, the highest ratio of the four cities with a further 23.7% having
worked for their current company for between 3 and 5 years. The figure should be placed together
with the high level of 15 to 24 year olds currently working and is a likely indicator of many new
entrants into the labour market.
Conversely to Pul-i Khumri, employees in Kandahar work longer hours and are paid more on
average.
Table 6.9: Employee Salaries
Afs Frequency Trend
12 months ago Average Salary 3,211 152
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 4,357 ‘0’ = 40
Current year Average Salary 5,495 152 +71.2%
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 5,682 ‘0’ = 5 +30.4%
Four-Cities Average Current Salary 4,727 656 + 83.5%
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 5,187 60 + 30.3%
The current average salary of surveyed employees in Kandahar is 5,495 Afs (US$117), which
increases to 5,682 Afs (US$121) when employees that did not report a salary are excluded. Salaries
were reported as increasing by 30.4% among paid employees over the past 12 months. Again among
paid employees, Kandahar salaries are 9.5% above the four-city average.
Kandahar Mean
Permanent Full Time w/ Formal Contract 11.8% 5.2%
Permanent Full Time, No Formal Contract 61.2% 54.3%
Permanent Part Time w/ Formal Contract 3.3% 4.0%
Permanent Part Time, No Formal Contract 9.2% 28.9%
Self Employed 14.5% 7.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 152 655
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6.2.5. Company Revenue and Expenses
Employers were asked to divulge their company’s revenue as well as their operating costs in order to
present a better understanding of the costs of doing business and monthly revenue streams.
Table 6.10: Company Revenue (breakdown by revenue bracket)
Of the 152 surveyed businesses, 32.2% of businesses
reported monthly revenues between 20,001 Afs and
30,000 Afs (US$213 to US$425). At the lower end of
the revenue scale, 10.5% of employers reported
monthly revenues of 10,000 Afs (US$213) or less a
month.
An average of all reported revenue by employers in
Kandahar City amounted to 42, 161 Afs,
approximately 1,000 Afs greater than the four-city
average.
Business operating expenses are presented in Figure 6.2 with salaries representing the largest share
of costs at 39.7%, slightly less than the average.
Figure 6.2: Operating Costs (breakdown by category)
Rent was recorded as
the second highest cost
facing employers at
30.9% of total costs,
while ‘other’ (14.6%)
was wholly comprised of
businesses declaring
food costs to be a major
operating expense.
Transportation (8.1%),
communications (5.5%)
and heating (1.2%) were
the remaining costs.
A very basic calculation
of income derived by
subtracting operating
costs from revenue
produces an average monthly income of 8,848 Afs (US$188), which produces a 21% income to
revenue ratio, the highest among the four cities by approximately 10%.
Revenue
Bracket Kandahar
Av. Four
Cities
0-10,000 10.5% 8.9%
10,001-20,000 25.0% 25.8%
20,001-30,000 32.2% 26.9%
30,001-40,000 15.1% 14.7%
40,001-50,000 7.2% 8.0%
50,001-100,000 7.2% 11.4%
100,000+ 1.3% 3.8%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 152 654
Salaries
40%
Rent
31%
Other
15%
Communication
5%
Transportation
8%
Heating
1%
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6.2.6. Access to Credit and Financing
In Kandahar, 21.1% of business owners stated that they had accessed credit over the last twelve
months.
Table 6.11: Sources of Credit and Financing
Of these 28 companies, only 4.6% went to a bank
or micro-finance institution for a loan, in contrast
to the vast majority who borrowed money from
friends (46.5%), relatives (32.6%) or through
connections in the local bazaar. The importance
of informal social networks, in addition to a
method of recruitment, is again highlighted by
the way businesses access credit.
In Kandahar City, the average loan size of the 28
businesses amounted to 116,847 Afs (US$2,486),
which was 35,000 Afs higher than the four-city
average, primarily as a result of a number of large loans taken out by three particular firms.
Employers who had accessed credit were asked about the impact of the loan on the business and
68.8% responded that it had led to the expansion of the business and increased profits, whereas
only 9.4% stated that the business had not grown and profits had decreased.
Both employers and employees were asked whether they intend to develop their business or
establish a new business respectively and the results were both largely in the affirmative. From 153
employers, 58.7% have existing plans to further develop their current business and only 9.4%
expressed no interest in doing so. A further 34.9% of employers would do so if the opportunity
presents itself. The figures are in line with responses from the three other cities. On the employees
side, 60.5% possess a plan to create a new business with a further 21.7% willing to if there is the
chance.
Table 6.12 is a summary of employees and employers’ financial options who declared that they
would like to establish a business, either with an existing plan or if there is the chance. A greater
number of employers have access to personal funds than employees and more than a third of each
category does not have access to funds and does not know hot to obtain the necessary funds. Only a
small percentage of respondents (2.95% employers, 0.8% employees) stated that they would
approach a formal financial institution.
Table: 6.12: Do you have the needed funds to develop the current activity of your business?
Yes, I have
enough
personal funds
No, but my
family/friends
will assist
No, I plan to
borrow money
from an institution
No, and I still do
not know how to
obtain the funds Frequency
Employers 50.4% 12.4% 2.9% 34.3% 137
Employees 36.0% 23.2% 0.8% 39.2% 125
Average Employers (Four Cities) 40.8% 14.4% 5.2% 39.6% 617
Average Employees (Four Cities) 24.5% 18.1% 3.4% 53.7% 531
Source of Funds
Kandahar
City
Av. Four
Cities
Friends 46.5% 24.5%
Relatives 32.6% 12.9%
Bazaar 16.3% 29.0%
Micro Finance Institution 2.3% 0.0%
Bank 2.3% 0.0%
Local Land Owner 0.0% 14.6%
Money Lender 0.0% 19.0%
Mortgage 0.0% 0.0%
Total 100% 100%
Frequency 28 141
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6.3. Gender and Youth
This section addresses the key challenges for women and youth in accessing the labour market.
Kandahar is perceived as being more conservative than northern provinces in attitudes towards
women working and this sentiment was supported by comments made in focus group discussions.
The most frequently cited issue in focus groups was the difficulty of obtaining family permission to
leave the house and by extension travel to a workplace. Ajib, a fine arts dresser, explained ‘In our
territory all decision making is the right of men and we do not have the right to interfere in any
decision. There are many jobs for women but they do not have the right to work outdoors.’ The local
cultural environment has therefore left many women only being able to work from him in traditional
roles, such as handicrafts, embroidery and clothes making as Qudsia, a women’s tailor explained:
‘our men go to market and bring sewing materials and tools, then they take our products to market
to sell.’
Table 6.13: What positions do women occupy in your company?
Referring back to Table 6.6, women
occupy only 3.1% of positions within
the 152 companies surveyed and this is
reflected in Table 6.13. Employers and
employees were asked what positions
do women occupy within your
company and 88.7% replied that there
were no positions available or occupied
by women. A further 6% of companies
employ women as apprentices, most
likely in the handicraft sector, and a further 5.3% work in labouring jobs.
Table 6.14: Obstacles women face to work in your sector?
Both categories of respondents were
asked what are the primary obstacles to
women being able to access the labour
market through yes or no answers. The
responses are contained in Table 6.14.
In line with the responses in focus group
discussions, 59.9% of employers and
55.9% of employees stated that family
permission is an obstacle, which was
above the average and considered the
largest obstacle by the 304 respondents.
A lack of opportunities (42.8%
employers, 43.4% employees) and lack
of experience (39.5% employers, 32.9%
employers) were the other main
challenges facing women entering the labour market.
Kandahar
Four-city
Average
No Positions 88.7% 84.9%
Apprenticeships (on the job training) 6.0% 10.8%
Manual/Labouring work 5.3% 3.5%
Day Labourers 0.0% 0.5%
Junior Management 0.0% 0.2%
Office work 0.0% 0.1%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 304 1308
Obstacle Employers Employees
Combined
Four-city
Average
Family Permission 59.9% 55.9% 46.3%
Lack of
opportunities
42.8% 43.4% 36.7%
Lack of experience 39.5% 32.9% 41.6%
Low Salaries 13.2% 14.5% 13.9%
Lack of
qualifications
(education)
5.3% 9.2% 15.7%
Sector not
appropriate for
women
7.2% 5.3% 15.4%
Lacking access to
patronage networks
2.6% 3.3% 4.8%
Total 170.4% 164.5% 174.5%
Frequency 152 152 1308
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 72/102
Youth also face numerous challenges to access the labour market. In the districts around Kandahar
City, beyond shop keeping in the local bazaar, most working youth are involved in agriculture and
livestock, while in Kandahar City, many young workers work as day labourers, guards, drivers, join
the ANSF or undertake ‘illegal activities,’ as it was referred to in focus group discussions, referring to
either the insurgency or drug smuggling. The lack of employment opportunities was regularly cited
in key informant interviews and focus group discussions in the four subject provinces as a precursor
to involvement in the insurgency or as a cause of social ills including drug addiction.
Day labouring rates for youth can range between 100 Afs to 200Afs a day and is often irregular. Local
day labourers also face competition from youth arriving from the surrounding districts and provinces
to find work in southern Afghanistan’s largest city. Pakistani labourers, similar to northern
Afghanistan, are favoured in day labouring markets and construction sites in Kandahar City due to
their perceived higher skill level and low wages, which are often less than local tradesmen.
Table 6.15: Positions occupied by 15-24 y.o in your company?
Table 6.15 outlines the responses from
employers and employees to a question
on what positions do youth occupy in
their respective companies.
Apprenticeships comprised the largest
percentage of responses with 68.3%
declaring that 15-24 year olds are
either informally trained on the job or
undertake formal training while also
working. A further 23.4% of
respondents declared that youth primarily occupy day labouring positions, while 4.7% worked as
junior managers in their companies. Only 1.3% of respondents claimed that there were no positions
open to youth or where youth did not work. Unemployment remains a significant problem in
Kandahar, as in many provinces and is a result of several factors.
Table 6.16: Obstacles youth face to work in your sector?
Table 6.16 lists the primary obstacles
to youth employment as declared by
employers and employees.
Approximately two thirds of all
employers and employees stated that
experience was the main obstacle in
addition to a lack of opportunities
(57.2%, 44.7%). Low salaries (48%,
44.7%) were an inhibitor to attracting
youth and a lack of qualifications
(30.3%, 36.2%) were all perceived as
the major challenges for youth in accessing the labour market.
Kandahar
Four-city
Average
Apprenticeships (on the job training) 68.3% 59.5%
Day Labourers 23.4% 18.8%
Junior Management 4.7% 1.7%
Manual/Labouring work 2.0% 7.1%
No Position 1.3% 12.4%
Office work 0.3% 0.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 304 1308
Obstacle Employers Employees
Combined
Four-city
Average
Lack of experience 66.4% 66.4% 62.1%
Lack of opportunities 57.2% 44.7% 60.5%
Low salary 48.0% 44.7% 42.0%
Lack of qualifications
(education)
30.3% 36.2% 27.7%
Lacking access to
patronage networks
13.8% 19.1% 20.4%
Total 215.8% 211.2% 212.7%
Frequency 152 152 1308
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 73/102
6.4. Obstacles to Business Development
The challenges facing businesses are manifold, however, although insecurity to the casual observer
may seem as the largest challenge to businesses, in Kandahar only 23.7% of employers declared
insecurity to be a major or very severe obstacle. Table 6.17 was formulated by combining the
obstacles rated ‘4’ and ‘5’ or those considered as a ‘major obstacle’ or ‘very severe obstacle,’
respectively by employers.
Table 6.17: Major and very severe obstacles to business development
As Kandahar does not have reliable access to
electricity as does Pul-i Khumri, parts of Mazar
and during certain hours Kunduz City, access
to electricity was perceived by 70.4% of
employers as a major or severe obstacle to
their business. The high cost of generator
electricity can ensure that some economic
activities become unprofitable, as has recently
occurred at the Kandahar Industrial Park. The
high cost of land and rent, similar to the other
three cities, was also considered a significant
concern by employers. Compared to the average, Kandahar employers also report that the poor skill
levels of their employees and by extension the labour market has obstructed the development of
their businesses. Abdul Karim, a hotel owner in Kandahr City, further expanded on the subject, ‘I
cannot employ young illiterate people in my hotel. It is very difficult to find professional labour
because they are very few and not in a specific location.’
Access to credit was reported by 61.2% of employers as a major or severe obstacle, significantly
higher than the four-city average of 48.1%. According to Spen, a wholesale and retail trader,
‘business is adverse in Kandahar right now due to the lack of security and lack of capital. Most of
people are not able to trade due to a lack of capital. If the problem is solved people will start
business, if this is legal and based on Islam, they will happily do business.’ The issue of Shariatcompliant loans is particularly important, with many trader and individuals unwilling to access loans
that are not compliant.
Similar to other provinces, corruption and insecurity are placed at the lower end of what employers
considered as obstacles to the development of their business. Therefore, even though Kandahar has
witnessed some of the more intensive fighting across the country over the last two years, businesses
in the urban centre appear to be resilient to its impact.
In addition to the listed obstacles, rising food costs in particular as well as the occasional closure of
the border crossing were also burdens on local businesses. Nisar Ahmad, a baker, spoke of the rising
food costs, ‘the big obstacle for our business is that the gas and flour price is very high and we can
not increase our business and bakery. There is more work in the months of April, May and June in the
hotels and therefore demand increases for bakery (items) and breads, other obstacle for us is gas
bottles which they sell AFN 10 in a higher price.’
Kandahar
Combined
Four-city
Average
Access to Electricity 70.4% 67.8%
Access to Land 70.4% 70.7%
Skills of the employees 67.8% 54.5%
Access to credit 61.2% 48.1%
Access to Communications 38.2% 21.0%
Access to Water 30.3% 30.3%
Corruption 23.7% 21.9%
Insecurity 23.7% 21.9%
Competition 20.4% 29.4%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 74/102
6.5. Training
Employee skill levels were declared by 67.8% of employers (see Table 6.17) to be a major or serious
obstacle to the development of their business. The section is designed to provide a brief overview of
training and perceptions of training within the labour market in Kandahar.
Table 6.18: Training and Training Providers
Table 6.18 provides information on prior training for employers or business owners, of their
employees and the responses from the employees themselves. Broadly speaking, there are higher
levels of reported training in Kandahar compared to the average wither greater levels of internal or
on the job training. Approximately half of employees responded that they had received no training,
while the average of the four cities was 62.1%. For employees, 57.2% of all employees had received
training and 52% of their employees had also received some form of training.
Table 6.19: Perceptions of completed training
Higher levels of on the job or internal
training were reported in Kandahar City than
in Kunduz City, Mazar or Pul-i Khumri. 55.3%
of employees responded that they had
received internally and employers reported
that 45.4% of their employees had been also
trained internally. Other providers including
NGOs, private companies and the
government collectively trained less than 4%
of all three categories. Education institutes
were the primary external training institute
selected by employers (8.6%) and
employees (12.5%). Education institutes are
a growth industry in many of Afghanistan’s
urban areas, including Kandahar as they
offer a variety of business courses including
Employers
Employers on
Employees Employees
Training Provider Employers
Four-city
Average
Employer
on Employees
Four-city
Average Employees
Four-city
Average
No Previous Training 57.2% 61.2% 52.0% 61.9% 48.7% 62.1%
Internal 30.3% 22.5% 45.4% 30.8% 55.3% 34.2%
NGO 2.6% 1.4% 2.0% 0.9% 0.7% 0.9%
Private Company 0.7% 5.5% 0.7% 3.2% 0.7% 2.1%
Education Institute 8.6% 8.6% 11.8% 11.9% 12.5% 15.3%
Government 0.7% 0.8% 0.0% 0.8% 0.7% 0.7%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 111.8% 109.5% 118.4% 115.2%
Frequency 152 657 152 657 152 656
Perception of Training
Employers
on Employee
Training Employees
Learned a lot 100.0% 100.0%
Used new skills in workplace 90.4% 60.3%
Increased work performance 97.3% 100.0%
Helps chances of promotion 100.0% 97.4%
Assists towards salary increase 98.6% 93.6%
Would recommend training 97.3% 87.2%
Would like more training n/a 94.9%
Increase chances of better job
in another company
n/a 98.7%
Practical for Workplace n/a 93.6%
Not practical Enough n/a 46.2%
Boring n/a 17.9%
Don’t understand why I went
to training
n/a 11.5%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 75/102
management, English, accounting and basic literacy.
Table 6.19 (above) relates the level of satisfaction with the various training providers. The table
should more be considered an assessment of internal training considering the high percentages of
employees and employers who reported being trained internally. Training was well received in terms
of its relevance to the work place and assistance to the trainee’s career. Only a minority of
employees expressed negative views of the training.
Employers were asked what would be the best timing to offer training to their employees. The
morning only received 0.7% support from employers, while 42.1% thought the evening would be
convenient. When asked about the practicality of offering apprenticeships, 41.4% of employers were
in favour.
When asked who had funded the training for their employees, 81.8% of employers stated that they
paid for the training. Of the employees who had provided training either internally or externally for
their employees, 50.7% would not pay for training, while the remaining percentage would pay an
average of 257Afs per week. There was also a strong interest expressed for further training or skills
development as 78.3% of employers expressing an interest in developing their business and 92.8%
of employees who would like to set up business felt that they needed additional skills to pursue their
business venture.
Table 5.20 details the major obstacles for employers and employees to provide future training. For
employers, 62.5% of all employers stated that existing family obligations are a major obstacle to
further training. For their employees, questions of family commitments (57.9%), time (56.6%) and
cost (56.1%) were seen as severe constraints for their employees to receive training. For employees,
family obligations were again considered as the largest detraction from attending training, followed
by cost (56.1%).
Table 6.20: Important or severe obstacle to training
Important or Severe
Obstacles Cost Time Distance
Family
Obligations Frequency
Employers 47.3% 50.7% 40.3% 62.5% 152
Employers on Employees 53.0% 56.6% 40.5% 57.9% 152
Employees 56.1% 54.3% 44.6% 59.6% 152
Average 52.1% 53.8% 41.8% 60.0%
Training certificates are typically viewed as an important commodity by both employers and
employees, however in Kandahar almost a third of employers expressed a distrust of training
certificates, while 41% responded that they were the most important criteria for their employees. A
further 27.8% believe that they are important, but along with several other criteria.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 76/102
Box 3: Transition: The Economic Impact
In November 2011, the World Bank released a report entitled ‘Transition in Afghanistan: Looking
beyond 2014.’ The report addresses the economic consequences of the transfer of security
responsibilities from ISAF to the Afghan National Security Forces, which has already commenced,
and the impeding drawdown in the international military presence, expected to be accompanied by
a reduction in development spending. Real GDP growth has been estimated at 9% a year for the last
year, however this is likely to fall to around 5-6% during 2011 to 2018. The forecast is considered
favourable and is dependent on mining investments being realised, a gradual rather than dramatic
reduction in aid and the security situation remaining comparable or improving. If these factors are
counted, then GDP could fall to 3-4%.
According to the World Bank, the amount
of development aid totalled US15.7 billion
approximately equal to the Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
The majority of these funds have been off
budget and channelled through Provincial
Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), for-profit
development groups, NGOs and through
military programs including the
Commander’s Emergency Response
Program (CERP). The current levels of
public spending, both on and off budget,
will be ‘fiscally unsustainable for
Afghanistan once donor funds decline.’
Photo: Interviewing a construction supply shop owner in Kandahar
The likely effect of the transition with be an increase in unemployment and underemployment,
considering that between 6-10% of the working population has benefited from aid-financed jobs,
with the services and construction sector being particularly hard hit, not only as they are labour
intensive but also as they have been recipients, indirectly or directly, of the massive amounts of aid
and associated military spending in the country. When this does occur at the provincial level,
underemployment will likely increase the amount of day labourers and labour migrants to
neighbouring countries, with the services and construction sectors particularly hard hit. The
manufacturing sector, one of the targets of the intended vocational training, will be indirectly
affected, however the creation of a local skills base would be advantageous for the local economy,
jobs growth and possibly contribute to a reduction in the high levels of labour migration.
See World Bank, ‘Transition in Afghanistan: Looking Beyond 2014’, November 2011. Available at:
http://go.worldbank.org/H6ANBPOV70
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 77/102
Kunduz City, Kunduz Province
Kunduz province is the third northern province in the study and is located adjacent to Balkh, while
also bordering the provinces of Samangan to the southwest, Baghlan to the south and Takhar to the
east. Similar to Balkh, Kunduz also hosts an international border crossing with Tajikistan to the north
and has benefited from an increase in trade following the opening of ISAF’s northern supply route in
2008. Kunduz City also links the northeastern provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan with both the
north and central provinces.
Table 7.1: NRVA: Key Economic and Labour Market Statistics
NRVA Data Kunduz
Average
4-Prov
National
Average
Populations (million) 0.9 1.0 24.5
Rural population (%) 76 71.5 77
Poverty rate (%) 29.7 28.2 35.8
Electricity (% of households) 32 36.8 41.1
Per capita monthly total consumption (Afs) 1511 1675.5 1672
Female literacy rate - age 16 and over (%) 9.2 9.3 11.4
Literacy rate - age 16 and over (%) 19.7 19.5 25
Enrolment rate - age 6-12 (%) 49.7 44.1 46.3
LABOUR MARKET
Participation rate (%) 73.7 66.6 66.5
Unemployment rate (%) 8.3 6.7 7.9
Underemployment rate (%) 63.3 40.7 48.2
Literate labour force (%) 19.7 20.1 25.8
Child labour (% of children age 6-15 engaged in work) 21.6 15.6 17.9
EMPLOYMENT SECTORS
Agriculture (%) 58.2 52.9 59.1
Manufacturing, construction, mining and quarrying (%) 21.9 14.5 12.5
Services (%) 18.1 29.9 24.6
Public administration (%) 1.8 2.8 3.9
7.1 Economic Overview
Sharing an international border with Tajikistan, Kunduz’s economy could be more closely compared
to Baghlan than Balkh, as the province remains highly reliant on agriculture and livestock in the rural
areas, aided by 85% of households having access to irrigated land.28 In the capital, Kunduz City, there
is a concentration of trading entities and service providers, which is mirrored to a similar degree in
28 National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA) 2005. 85% of rural households have access to irrigated land, while
84% of urban households benefit from irrigated land.
7.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 78/102
the district of Imam Sahib catering to the border town of Sher Khan as well as the large district
population. Other district bazaars cater for the more basic needs of the local population.
As trade statistics remain scarce, interviews with government officials and business leaders in
Kunduz suggest that the balance of trade overwhelmingly favours Tajikistan. Considering that 70% of
Afghanistan’s trade with Central Asia is comprised of imports from Uzbekistan, it is reasonable to
assume considering the lack of data, that The border crossing at Sher Khan does not have a similar
trading volume to Khairatan in neighbouring Balkh province.29 Exports to Tajikistan include locally
made clothes and oils, such as almond oil, as well as dried fruits, gemstones and jewellery, nuts,
onions, potatoes, rice and cement, whereas imports include large capital equipment for the
construction industry, automotive spare parts, foodstuffs, firewood, fuel, medicine, textiles and
electricity, which supplies the Afghan energy market, including Kabul.30 Plans are also reportedly
advanced to establish a cross-border market in Sher Khan Bandar, which would have the potential to
increase sales of locally grown or made products, including agriculture and handicrafts.
Although agriculture is the primary economic activity in the province, Kunduz, in recent years, has
attempted to establish a light-manufacturing or industrial base, as it was often referred to. The
initiatives have often benefited from preferential financing or grants from bi-lateral development
agencies as well as capacity building of value chains, often by NGOs or consultants, in an attempt to
ensure a measure of sustainability. According to the Kunduz chapter of the ACCI, industrial concerns
include dairy production, flourmills, rice processing, a textile factory, tile making and toilet paper
manufacturing.
Kunduz, in a similar manner to Pul-i Khumri, used to rely on an industrial sector to add value to local
agricultural production, while also directly employing thousands of people. The Spinzer textile
factory in Kunduz City formerly employed thousands of people, sourced cotton from local farmers
and manufactured oil, soap and cotton. The factory, now virtually deserted, continues to act as a
source of reference for the older generation as to what the province is capable of achieving. In place
of industry, attempts have been made to develop the post-harvest sector considering Kunduz
comparative advantage, although often these efforts appear to remain hostage to local capacity
restraints.
Similar to other subject provinces, the main economic activity in the districts of Kunduz is
agriculture. District bazaars provide basic services to the residents, however most residents travel to
Kunduz City, considering the relative compact size of the province and short travel times, for more
complex services and supplies, which has had the effect of centralising services in the provincial
capital.
As Figure 4.1 illustrates, employers and employees view the local economy as being dependent on a
number of sectors. For both groups, agriculture was reported as the leading economic contributor
by 32% of employees and 31.3% of employers, which was closely followed by the education sector
(30.6% of employers and 27.9% of employees). The contribution of education to the economy could
be seen from two angles. Firstly, the plethora of institutes, training academies, language schools and
29 Norling, ‘Afghanistan’s trade with Central Asia Revives,’ Central Asia Caucasus Institute, 27 April 2011.
30 Nabiyeva, Dilafruz,’ Tajikistan enters Afghan energy market,’ Central Asia Online, 19 September 2011. Available at:
http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/main/2011/09/19/feature-01
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 79/102
private secondary schools employs a significant number of teachers and administrators, and
secondly, education is viewed as a prized asset, which has the potential to open up new areas of
opportunity and raise families out of poverty.
Wholesale and retail trade was selected by an average of 12.25% of employers and employees as
the leading economic sector most likely due to the bustling bazaar and trading sectors that service
both Kunduz and the northeast provinces of Badakhshan and Takhar especially.
Manufacturing and construction were selected by less than 10% of respondents, which again is
indicative of the influence of
agriculture over the Kunduz
economy.
Table 4.2 is a representation of
the primary source of household
income among employers and
employees. Although there is a
similar level of concentration in
the three sectors, the origins of
household income are
representative of urban income
sources, rather than the
economic sectors, which
dominate the provincial
economy.
Figure 7.1: Perceptions of the leading sectors driving the economy
In Kunduz City, 41.5% of employers and employees report that the wholesale and retail trading
sector is the primary source of their household income.
Table 7.2: Top Ten Primary Sources of Household Income
Manufacturing, that includes both
commercial-size output and bazaar
craftsmen, was reported by 24.8%
of employers and 15.5% of
employees as their most important
source of family income. In contrast,
employees reported higher
numbers of household income
being derived from the agriculture
and construction sectors, both of
which are traditionally reliant on
day labourers. Kunduz has a strong
tradition of carpet production, primarily centred on Chahar Dara district, but also Kunduz City,
Khanabad and Aliabad, which 7.5% of combined respondents claimed was their primary source of
household income.
Sector Employers Employees Mean
Wholesale and Retail Trade 47.7% 35.4% 41.5%
Manufacturing (Carpentry,
Electrician, Welding)
24.8% 15.5% 20.2%
Manufacturing (Sewing,
Embroidery, Carpet Making)
10.7% 4.3% 7.5%
Transportation 2.7% 11.2% 6.9%
Agriculture and Livestock 4.0% 8.1% 6.1%
Construction 2.0% 6.8% 4.4%
Hotels, Restaurants 2.0% 0.6% 1.3%
Telecoms, IT, Computers 2.0% 0.6% 1.3%
Banks, Money Changers, Hawala 0.7% 0.0% 0.3%
Mining and Quarrying 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
Agriculture and Livestock
Education Providers
Wholesale and Retail Trade
Manufacturing (Carpentry,
Welding)
Construction
Manufacturing (Sewing,
Embroidery, Carpet Making)
Employees
Employers
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 80/102
Photo: A young apprentice in Kandahar
In an attempt to measure business confidence, both employers and employees were asked several
questions on revenue (employers), future hiring practices (both employers and employees) and
intent to create a business (employees). Revenue was reported by 39.1% of employers as having
increased in the last twelve months, while 22.5% declared that it had stayed the same. A higher
number of responses (15.2%) declared that they did not know their company’s revenue indicating
either little knowledge about the financial affairs of their business or alternatively an unwillingness
to divulge revenue figures.
As a basic measure of business confidence, employers and employees were asked whether new
employees would be added to their companies over the next year, with 47.7% of employers
answering in the affirmative and 45.4% of employees answering in a similar fashion. Employees
appear to be more than willing to pursue an entrepreneurial path as 46.4% claimed that they have a
plan to establish a new business in the future, which placed the province after Kandahar (60.5%) and
before Baghlan and Balkh.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 81/102
7.2 Kunduz City Labour Market
7.2.1 Companies’ Profile
The table below describes the different companies that were surveyed (according to the “cluster then
random” sampling methodology describe in paragraph 1.22.
Table 7.3: Quantitative Sampling Description
Kunduz City Four Cities
ISIC Code
Em p lo ye rs (
%
)
Em p lo ye e s (%
)
M
e an (
%
)
Em p lo ye rs (
%
)
Em p lo ye e s (%
)
M
e an (
%
)
A - Agriculture and Livestock 3.3 2.0 2.7 1.8 1.2 1.5
B - Mining and Quarrying 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 1.1 1.1
C - Manufacturing (Sewing, Embroidery, Carpet Making) 19.3 19.6 19.5 16.2 15.5 15.8
C - Manufacturing (Bakeries, Carpentry, Textiles) 26.0 25.6 25.8 32.0 34.3 33.1
F - Construction 0.0 0.7 0.3 0.8 1.2 1.0
G - Wholesale and Retail Trade 48.0 48.5 48.3 40.0 38.6 39.3
H - Transportation 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.5 1.5 1.5
I - Hotels, Restaurants 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.9 3.5 3.2
J – Communications, Telecoms, IT, Computers 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.2 1.9
K - Finance - Banks, Money Changers 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
O - Public Administration 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.2
P - Education Providers 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 1.2 1.5
Q - Health Providers 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
U - NGOs/IOs 0.0 0 0.0 0.2 0 0.1
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100
In Kunduz City, the survey of the labour market produced a concentration of businesses in the
wholesale and retail-trading sector followed by manufacturing. Of 150 employers and 150
employees surveyed, 48.3% worked in the wholesale and retail trade sector. The figure is 9% higher
than the average for the four cities and could be explained by the thriving local bazaars, agricultural
trade with adjoining provinces and being the centre of economic activity for north-eastern
Afghanistan in addition to providing a hub for imports and to a more limited degree, exports.
Manufacturing is the second most represented sector, which has been divided into two sections in
an attempt to assess possible training needs based on groups of vocational skills. Manufacturers,
including furniture makers, metalworkers and textile producers comprise an average of 25.8% of
businesses, while those manufacturing businesses that produce embroidery and carpets totalled
19.5% of both employers an employees. Agriculture (2.7%), hotels and restaurants (2%) and
transportation (1.3%) businesses are also represented.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 82/102
Photo: An apprentice machine lather in Kunduz City
7.2.2 Ownership, Foundation and Licensing
Table 7.4: Year of Company Formation
Almost 50% of businesses surveyed were established in the
past six years and 82.2% were created since 2001 suggesting
how far the economic landscape has changed over the past
ten years. Compared to the four-city average, Kunduz City has
a higher percentage of businesses (49.7% to 37.4%) that have
been formed in the past six years and is most likely based on
the wealth generation derived from a strong agricultural base
and the city’s position as a trading hub.
Table 7.5: Business Registration
The vast majority of businesses (79.6%)
reported being registered with the
municipality, which is approximately in
line with the other cities surveyed. The
high figure registering with the
municipality could be viewed as an
indication of the size and trading outlook
of the businesses that have been
surveyed. Registering with AISA, DoCI or
the DoE generally requires a certain size, revenue and business outlook, whereas registering with
the municipality suggests more localised business practices and outlook. From 151 businesses
surveyed 10.9% are not registered with any authority.
Kunduz
City
Mean
(Four
Cities)
1961-70 0.0% 0.9%
1971-80 0.7% 1.8%
1981-90 4.6% 4.1%
1991-2000 12.6% 20.2%
2001-2006 32.5% 35.3%
2006 -2011 49.7% 37.4%
Total 0.0% 100%
Frequency 152 655
Department/Agency Kunduz City
Mean
(Four
Cities)
Yes, Municipality 79.6% 73.8%
Yes, Department of Finance 8.8% 12.9%
Yes, Department of Economy 0.0% 1.0%
Yes, AISA 0.7% 0.8%
Yes, Department of Commerce 0.0% 0.3%
No 10.9% 11.2%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 83/102
7.2.3. Staffing and Recruitment Channels
Of the 151 employers surveyed, the average number of employees per business was reported to be
4, which approximated the four-city average of 4.5 employees (see Table 7.6).
Table 7.6: Average Number of employees (breakdown by age category)
Male
<15
Female
<15
Male
15-24
Female
15-24
Male
24+
Female
24+
Av. No.
Employees
Frequency
Kunduz City 0.55 0.09 1.67 0.37 1.15 0.18 4.0 151
Percentage 13.8% 2.3% 41.8% 9.3% 28.8% 4.5% 100.0%
Four-City Average 0.54 0.11 2.02 0.26 1.40 0.15 4.5 657
Table 7.6 presents the average number of employees per business by age group. Males aged
between 15 and 24 are the most represented comprising 41.6% of all employees of the surveyed
companies. Males overall equate to 84% of all employees. Traditional women’s roles such as carpet
making, embroidery, handicrafts and clothes making are primarily undertaken from the home in an
informal basis and therefore these women are unlikely to be represented in the above data.
Table 7.7 details the methods that employers recruit staff as well as how employees found their
current position. Both employees and employers reported that friends were the method chosen by
both groups to recruit staff and access the job market. Relatives were the second favoured channel
used by employees (26.5%) and the third for employers (21.4%). Connections in the bazaar were
also a favoured option.
Table 7.7: Recruitment Channels (breakdown by category)
Recruitment Channel Employers Employees
Mean
(4 cities)
Friends 32.4% 32.7% 26.9%
Relatives 21.4% 26.5% 25.8%
Bazaar 23.7% 15.6% 15.6%
Relatives of employee 9.9% 13.6% 12.1%
Friend of employee 11.5% 9.5% 17.0%
Mosque 1.1% 2.0% 1.6%
Newspaper Advertisement 0.0% 0.0% 0.1%
Radio/TV Advertisement 0.0% 0.0% 0.2%
Other 0.0% 0.3% 1.4%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.6%
Frequency 153 150 657
Advertising in newspapers or the radio did not feature in responses by either category. Employees
appeared to confirm the trend of many businesses employing relatives with 56.3% of respondents
stating that they are related to their current employer, only slightly above the four-city average of
45.3%.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 84/102
7.2.4. Employee Contracts and Salaries
Table 7.8 lists the different status of employees within their companies. Only 2% of employees
report a formalised contract with their employer, while 95.3% work part time or full time without
any contract.
Table 7.8: Employee Status
Employees surveyed in Kunduz City
also appear to work more hours
(57.3) than the four-city average
(51.8), which is possibly a result of the
high number of employees (56.3%)
being related to their employer.
Family businesses are more likely to
involve working long hours and could
explain the longer hours worked in Kunduz – an idea that was lent support in key informant
interviews in Kunduz city.
In terms of length of service, approximately 65% of employees declared that they have been
working for their current employer for two years or less, while a further 23.8% for between 3 and 5
years. Both figures are closely aligned with the average of 59.6% and 25.8% respectively.
An average of current salaries as reported by all employees were comparable to the average and
once non-paid employees were excluded, the average salary was 4% lower than the average.
Table 7.9: Employee Salaries
Afs Frequency Trend
12 months ago Average Salary 2,275 150
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 3,669 ‘0’ = 59
Current year Average Salary 4,013 150 115.8%
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 4,561 ‘0’ = 17 48.2%
Four-Cities Average Current Salary 4,727 656 + 83.5%
Minus respondents who reported '0' salary 5,187 60 + 30.3%
The average salary of all surveyed employees amounted to 4,013 (US$86) Afs per month and when
non-paid employees are excluded, the average salary of paid employees is 4,561 Afs (US$97).
Salaries also appear to have increased significantly since the year prior, which can be partially
explained by 59 of the 150 respondents not reporting a salary for the same period year before and
only 17 declaring that they are currently not paid. When non-paid employees are excluded, the rise
in salaries is reduced from 115.8% to 48.2%, which still presents a significant increase in salary,
although from a low base.
Kunduz Mean
Permanent Full Time w/ Formal Contract 2.0% 5.2%
Permanent Full Time, No Formal Contract 49.3% 54.3%
Permanent Part Time w/ Formal Contract 2.0% 4.0%
Permanent Part Time, No Formal Contract 46.0% 28.9%
Self Employed 0.7% 7.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 151 655
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 85/102
7.2.5. Company Revenue and Expenses
Employers were surveyed on both their monthly revenue and expenses in an attempt to ascertain
the average revenue and deviation (Table 7.10) as well as the major business costs (Figure 7.2).
Table 7.10: Monthly company Revenue (breakdown by revenue bracket)
In the breakdown of monthly revenue in Table 7.10,
the highest percentage of businesses (30.5%) reported
revenue of between 10,001 Afs to 20,000 Afs (US$213
to US$426) followed by business declaring revenue
between 20,000 Afs to 30,000 Afs (US$426 to
US$638).
The average revenue of the 151 surveyed businesses
was recorded as 39,652 Afs slightly lower than the
four-city average of 41,260 Afs.
Operating costs, were categorised by salaries, rent, communication, transportation, heating and
other, which allowed employers to detail additional expenses. Of the total expenses, salaries
amounted to the highest cost bracket at 44% of costs. Rent was the second highest operating cost
and equal to half the salary expenses at 22%.
Figure 7.2: Operating Costs (breakdown by category)
‘Other’ was reported as the
third largest expense and a
breakdown of the category
finds that other expenses
are wholly those of food
costs, thereby making food
costs equal to 21% of
operating costs for surveyed
businesses in Kunduz city.
Transportation (8%),
communication (5%) and
heating (0.2%) costs were
reported as the remaining
operating expenses.
A basic addition of revenue
and operating costs provides
a gross income figure of
4,013 Afs, which should be considered indicative at best.
Revenue
Bracket Kunduz City
Av. Four
Cities
0-10,000 13.2% 8.9%
10,001-20,000 30.5% 25.8%
20,001-30,000 25.2% 26.9%
30,001-40,000 8.6% 14.7%
40,001-50,000 6.6% 8.0%
50,001-100,000 9.9% 11.4%
100,000+ 6.0% 3.8%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 151 654
Salaries
44%
Rent
22%
Other
21%
Communication
5%
Transportation
8%
Heating
0%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 86/102
7.2.6. Access to Credit and Financing
In Kunduz City, only 18.5% of employers reported borrowing money in the last year, which was the
lowest figure among the four subject cities.
Table 7.11: Sources of Credit and Financing
Table 7.11 lists the different sources of credit
available to business owners, which underlines
the preference for informal lines of credit as
relatives, friends and contacts in the bazaar
provided 71.4% of loans to businesses. Formal
institutions, including microfinance organisations
and banks, lent to 28.6% of businesses. In key
informant interviews, there is degree of
reticence to engage microfinance institutions or
banks that charge interest on loans as this can be
viewed as not being Shariat-compliant. Onerous
interest rates and regular interest payments also were reported as limiting a greater number of
businesses accessing formal institutions.
The average loan amount accessed by the 28 businesses was 34,111 Afs (US$726), less than half the
average loan amount from the four cities combined, which was 81,809 Afs (US$1,741). Employers
were asked whether the extension of credit had had an impact on their business and 67.9% declared
that both profits and the businesses itself had grown, while 14.3% stated that profits had declined
and the business had not expanded. Employees and employers were also asked whether they intend
on creating a new business or developing their existing enterprise, respectively. Among the 152
responding employees 46.4% said they had an existing plan to set up a new business and a 34.4%
would if the opportunity presents itself. For employers, 54.2% have a plan to further develop their
existing business and a further 44.4% would consider it if the circumstances are favourable. 14.3% of
employers and 19.2% of employees did not express any interest in either developing or creating a
business, respectively.
Table 7.12 examines the availability and options of funds to develop or set up a business. More
pronounced than other provinces, few employees (7.1%) have the assets to fund their business idea,
nor have the ability to access family funds (8.75) or the intention to borrow from a financial
institution (4.7%), thereby leaving 78.7% of employees not knowing where they are able to access a
credit facility. For employers, a greater number are able to access personal funds (31.3%), while
44.7% claimed that they do not know how to access credit.
Table: 7.12: Do you have the needed funds to develop the current activity of your business?
Yes, I have
enough
personal funds
No, but my
family/friends
will assist
No, I plan to
borrow money
from an institution
No, and I still do
not know how to
obtain the funds Frequency
Employers 31.3% 14.0% 10.0% 44.7% 142
Employees 7.1% 8.7% 4.7% 78.7% 122
Average Employers (Four Cities) 40.8% 14.4% 5.2% 39.6% 617
Average Employees (Four Cities) 24.5% 18.1% 3.4% 53.7% 531
Source of Funds
Kunduz
City
Av. Four
Cities
Relatives 25.7% 24.5%
Friends 25.7% 29.0%
Bazaar 20.0% 19.0%
Bank 20.0% 14.6%
Micro Finance Institution 8.6% 12.9%
Local Land Owner 0.0% 0.0%
Money Lender 0.0% 0.0%
Mortgage 0.0% 0.0%
Total 100% 100%
Frequency 28 141
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 87/102
7.3. Gender and Youth
Different challenges exist for different segments of the labour market. This section examines the
case of women and youth in accessing employment opportunities.
In focus group discussions, women in Kunduz spoke of illiteracy, a lack of opportunities as customary
behaviour by men, which seeks to stop women for working outside the house. DoLSA in Kunduz City
stated that the main challenges stopping women accessing the labour market include high levels of
illiteracy, traditions keeping women from working combined with family violence and insecurity,
which ‘restrict active women,’ especially so in the district of Kunduz.
Table 7.13: What positions do women occupy in your company?
Table 7.13 illustrates the particular roles
that women occupy within the companies
surveyed in Kunduz City. Similar to the
average, 80.1% of respondents declared
that there were no women or positions for
women in their company. Women do have
access to on the job training as 11.3% of
employers and employers answered that
women pursue apprenticeships in their
firm. Women also were reported to work
in manual or labouring work, which often involves cleaning and cooking positions within businesses.
No women were reported to be working in office work or junior management. Opportunities for
women in the districts, according to interviews an discussions in Kunduz, are based primarily around
agriculture and include fish farming, wool processing, beekeeping, poultry farming and small dairy
outputs, such as milk, butter and cream production. In both the districts and Kunduz city, women
are also very active in handicrafts, particularly clothes making, embroidery and carpet making.
Women face unique challenges, unlike other segments of the labour market, as family permission is
often required to leave the home as articulated by Hayderi, a focus group participant in Kunduz City,
‘the big obstacle for women to work outdoors is the violent action of men who do not let the women
to work.’ Women not only face threats from within the home, but also by anti-government actors, as
described by Rana Jan, another participant, ‘the basic obstacle for women who can not work is that
the security situation is not good, there are threats and warnings from the Taliban side that stick
(notices) on people doors that any women who want to work will be killed.’
In Table 7.14, both employers and employees were provided several options and asked to respond if
they were considered obstacles for women accessing the labour market. A lack of opportunities was
identified by 41.2% of employers and 38.7% of employees as the major obstacle facing women.
Closely behind, family permission, which was deemed by 36.7% of respondents across the four
subject cities, also received similar response levels in Kunduz. A lack of experience was reported by
30.1% of employers and 32% of employees, which could be seen as a conservative figure considering
so few women are actually participating in the labour market.
Kunduz
City
Four-city
Average
No Positions 80.1% 84.9%
Apprenticeships (on the job training) 11.3% 10.8%
Manual/Labouring work 8.6% 3.5%
Day Labourers 0.0% 0.5%
Junior Management 0.0% 0.2%
Office work 0.0% 0.1%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 302 1308
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 88/102
Table 7.14: Obstacles women face to work in your sector?
One sixth of employers
and one fifth of
employees also stated
that their sector is not
appropriate for
women, which may be
the result of the use of
manual labour or a
traditionally male
dominant environment.
For the director of
DoWA in Kunduz, however, ‘women are able to do anything,’ from working in agriculture and
livestock in rural areas to ‘carpentry, mobile and TV repairing as well as photography’ in urban areas.
Youth face a similar set of problems throughout Afghanistan and in Kunduz it is no different. The
absence of employment opportunities produces a palpable sense of frustration amongst job seekers.
For DoLSA the lack of jobs for young people is related to the underlying security environment, ‘If the
people are busy, we won’t have the security problems we currently have.’ The shortage of jobs has
also resulted in many youth migrating to Iran and Pakistan for several years or longer in some
instances. Although labour migrants provide an important source of household income, a significant
percentage, according to focus group discussions and key informant interviews, return from Iran as
addicts and from Pakistan more inclined to pursue anti-government activities.
Poverty in the families of youth was also reported as an obstacle to both training and finding
employment as short-term income generation is prioritised over long term career planning. Abdul
Manan, a butcher in Kunduz City, stated ‘we suffer very hard poverty and we have numerous family
members and our income is very little.’ Many youth, therefore, will migrate, work as day labourers,
join the ANSF and in some cases the insurgency to provide for their families.
Table 7.15: Positions occupied by 15-24 year olds in your company?
Employers and employees were asked to
identify roles within their companies
where youth have a particular presence.
Combining both response groups, 54%
declared that youth are primarily working
as apprentices or being trained on the job,
while a relative high number of 22.8%
stated that 15-24 year olds held no
positions within their firm. Day labourers
and manual labouring jobs within
businesses comprised 22.8% of answers.
Both survey groups were then asked what are the major obstacles facing youth in accessing the
labour and multiple answers were recorded.
Obstacle Employers Employees
Combined
Four-city
Average
Lack of opportunities 41.2% 38.7% 46.3%
Family Permission 39.2% 36.7% 36.7%
Lack of experience 30.1% 32.0% 41.6%
Lack of qualifications (education) 25.5% 26.0% 13.9%
Sector not appropriate for women 17.0% 19.3% 15.7%
Low Salaries 11.1% 14.0% 15.4%
Lacking access to patronage networks 0.7% 2.0% 4.8%
Total 164.7% 168.7% 174.5%
Frequency 151 151 1308
Kunduz
City
Four-city
Average
Apprenticeships (on the job training) 54.0% 59.5%
No Position 22.8% 12.4%
Day Labourers 14.8% 18.8%
Manual/Labouring work 8.0% 7.1%
Office work 0.3% 0.6%
Junior Management 0.0% 1.7%
Total 100.0% 100.0%
Frequency 302 1308
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 89/102
Photo: The jewellery market in Kunduz City (left). Hamid, who completed a GIZ
vocational training course in gemstones, works in hi s father’s shop (right).
Table 7.16: Obstacles youth face to work in your sector?
Two thirds of both employers and
employees believed that a lack of
experience was the major
impediment for youth, which
cannot be isolated from a lack of
opportunities, which 65.6% of
employers and 44.7% of employees
though was a major obstacle. With
few employment opportunities,
then it is very difficult to gain the
experience that many businesses may be looking for. Low salaries were also prioritised as an
obstacle for employment, more so for employees (44.7%) than employers (35.8%), while
qualifications were seen by employees (36.2%) more so than employers (13.9%) as a barrier to
accessing the labour market.
Obstacle Employers Employees
Combined
Four-city
Average
Lack of experience 67.5% 66.4% 60.5%
Lack of opportunities 65.6% 44.7% 62.1%
Low Salary 35.8% 44.7% 42.0%
Lack of qualifications
(education)
13.9% 36.2% 27.7%
Lacking access to
patronage networks
22.5% 19.1% 20.4%
Total 220.3% 213.3% 212.7%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 90/102
7.4. Obstacles to Business Development
Businesses and the provincial economy are faced with numerous difficulties ranging from insecurity
to cheap imports, rising costs and rampant corruption. The following section details the obstacles
that were raised by employers in the labour market survey. Employers were asked to prioritise the
obstacles to the development of their business on a five-point scale. Table 7.17 combines the
obstacles rated ‘4’ and ‘5’ or those considered as a ‘major obstacle’ or ‘very severe obstacle,’
respectively.
Table 7.17: Major and very severe obstacles to business development
151 employers reported access to affordable
land or shop space as the largest obstacle for
their business. High rent prices in urban centres
reduce the profitability and even viability of
many small businesses as competition for
wholesale and retail space pushes prices up.
70.2% of respondents also claimed that access to
electricity affects their business as an unreliable
supply of electricity will require more expensive
generator power for machine-intensive
businesses.
Access to credit was cited as the third largest challenge for business, which was also discussed in
section 7.2.6. 44.7% of employees and 78.7% of employees intending on establishing their own
business in Kuduz city stated that they did not have the money to set up their business and that they
were not sure how they would source the funds, no doubt contributing as to why it was placed third
in Table 7.17. From a vocational training point of view, 62.3% of employers found that the skills of
their employees limited the further development of their business, which appears to suggest that
there is high demand for the skills associated with vocational training centres.
Corruption and security (both 22.5%), although measuring lower down the scale of challenges that
businesses are facing have become factored into business calculations. In focus group discussions
and other interviews in Kunduz City, business leaders declared that corruption is factored into the
cost of business, which is then transferred on to consumers. An example frequently raised was
transportation – as ‘bakshish’ or bribe payments had increased in recent years, so had the costs
associated with transportation. Mohammad Hatam, a baker in Kunduz City, explained how he ‘brings
flour from other locations and the fare of the truck has increased as they have to pay (along the)
highways due to corruption.’
Insecurity has a similar effect. An individual working for a bilateral development agency with a deep
understanding of the issue explained that traders from Tajikistan are less willing to come to Kunduz
and Afghan traders that travel to Tajikistan often have to hire bodyguards to defend against
kidnapping gangs that work along the Sher Khan to Kunduz City Road. Costs have also risen due to
higher insurance premiums and payments to anti-government groups for transport along the
highways and payments to similar groups were reported in agricultural areas by farmers and traders.
Kunduz
City
Combined
Four-city
Average
Access to Land 76.8% 70.7%
Access to Electricity 70.2% 67.8%
Access to credit 65.6% 48.1%
Skills of the employees 62.3% 54.5%
Access to Water 27.8% 30.3%
Competition in your sector 26.5% 29.4%
Corruption 22.5% 21.9%
Insecurity 22.5% 21.9%
Access to Communications 15.2% 21.0%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 91/102
7.5. Training
The following section details the percentage of employers and employees who have been trained
and by whom as well as the perceived level of satisfaction from the trainings. Table 7.20 also lists the
major obstacles facing both survey groups to access further training courses.
Table 7.18: Training and Training Providers
Employers
Employers on
Employees Employees
Training Provider Employers
Four-city
Average
Employer
on Employees
Four-city
Average Employees
Four-city
Average
No Previous Training 21.2% 61.2% 35.1% 61.9% 29.8% 62.1%
Internal 56.3% 22.5% 63.6% 30.8% 72.8% 34.2%
NGO 0.7% 1.4% 0.0% 0.9% 0.7% 0.9%
Private Company 5.3% 5.5% 1.3% 3.2% 0.0% 2.1%
Education Institute 16.6% 8.6% 24.5% 11.9% 33.8% 15.3%
Government 0.0% 0.8% 0.0% 0.8% 0.0% 0.7%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 124.5% 109.5% 137.1% 115.2%
Frequency 151 657 151 657 151 656
Both Kandahar as well as Kunduz report a high percentage of companies favouring training with a
majority conducting the training internally. Only 21% of business owners report not having received
training, compared to the average of 61.2% with approximately 30% of employees also reporting
that they had not received training during their current employment. Provided with several options,
72.8% of employees responded that had received training internally with some employees also
receiving training from education institutes (33.8%) and a small number from NGOs (0.7%).
Table 7.19: Perceptions of completed training
Training, overall, was well received by
employers and employees (see Table 7.19).
For the 70.2% of employees who have
undergone training, while responses were
very positive regarding assistance to their
career, how useful the training was to their
current employment remained far from
universal as 52% of respondents claimed
they had used the new skills in their
workplace and 47.2% supported the
statement that the training was not practical
enough, both statements mutually
supporting each other.
Perception of Training
Employers
on Employee
Training Employees
Learned a lot 100.0% 100.0%
Used new skills in workplace 96.9% 52.8%
Increased work performance 99.0% 99.1%
Helps chances of promotion 100.0% 100.0%
Assists towards salary increase 100.0% 98.1%
Would recommend training 100.0% 96.2%
Would like more training n/a 96.2%
Increase chances of better job
in another company
n/a 99.1%
Practical for Workplace n/a 99.1%
Not practical Enough n/a 47.2%
Boring n/a 3.8%
Don’t understand why I went
to training
n/a 5.7%
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 92/102
Timing is an important consideration for employers, considering that many business are either small
or medium sized enterprises. 47% of employers were in favour of evening training sessions for their
employees; thereby training would not encroach on their working day, while 28.5% would support
apprenticeship or on the job training. Less than 1% of employers favoured morning training.
Cost is also a distinct concern for small businesses and 60% of employers who had provided training
to their employees stated that they would not be willing to pay for training, as most likely they
provide internal training to their employees while they are working and not viewing this as a cost. Of
the remaining businesses that would be willing to pay for training, an average figure of 249 Afs a
week was calculated.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 93/102
Annex 1: Vocational Training
This annex provides information on employer and employee perceptions of the utility of vocational
training for their current place of work. The responses for employers represent their views on
training for their employees.
For each subject city , respondents were firstly asked ‘which of the following training courses are
necessary for you (your employee) to fulfil their tasks?’ followed by ‘which vocational skills do you
(your employees) need to perform better at the workplace?’ The responses to the first question are
graphically illustrated and the second question is tabulated.
A.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 94/102
Annex 1.1: Pul-i Khumri
In Pul-i Khumri, both basic (27.1%) and advanced (26.4%) English were considered to be very useful
or essential with more than 50% of respondents stating that it was of little or no benefit. Basic and
Advanced accounting were seen as being more beneficial than both English and information
technology (IT) by the 300 respondents. Almost three quarters of employers and employees stated
that advanced accounting courses are either very useful or essential. The highest demands for
training or belief that it would be the most beneficial for the work environment were for advanced
vocational training (90.1%), which was higher than shorter courses or courses intended for an
introductory audience (67%).
Figure 1: Utility of skill sets in the fulfilment of mandated roles (employers and employees grouped)31
Respondents were asked to expand on the utility of vocational training and the answers are
represented in tabular format in Table 1.
Of the choices provided to respondents, an agricultural option, ‘Animal Husbandry’ was
perceived as offering little value, (85% little or no value) which is to be understood in an
urban environment, while ‘bazaar trades’ such as bicycle repair (95%), masonry (85%),
machine lathing (78%) and generator repair (77%) offered similar levels of perceived utility.
Sewing/Embroidery and Carpet making were reported to be very useful or essential by 37%
of grouped respondents, followed by tailoring (36%) and welding/metalwork (29%).
31
Answers of ‘Not at all’ and ‘Little Use’ were grouped into ‘Little or no benefit,’ while answers of ‘very useful’ and
‘essential’ were grouped into ‘Very useful or essential.’ ‘Useful’ – 3 on a five point scale stayed the same.
27.1% 26.4%
39.3%
45.5%
67.3%
72.9%
67.0%
90.1%
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Basic English Advanced English Basic IT Advanced IT Basic Accounting Advanced
Accounting
Basic Vocational
Training
Advanced
Vocational
Training
Very Useful or Essential Useful Little or No Benefit
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 95/102
Table 1: Utility of vocational trainings in the fulfilment of mandated roles (tabular format)
Vocational Training
Perceived
Utility
Employers
(%)
Emploees
(%)
Mean
(%)
Animal Husbandry Little or None 83 86 85
Useful 2 3 3
Very or Essential 15 11 13
Bicycle Repair Little or None 97 93 95
Useful 3 3 3
Very or Essential 1 4 2
Machine Lathing Little or None 79 77 78
Useful 5 5 5
Very or Essential 16 18 17
Carpentry Little or None 69 73 71
Useful 6 5 6
Very or Essential 25 22 23
Construction Little or None 69 67 68
Useful 10 11 11
Very or Essential 21 21 21
Generator Repair Little or None 78 76 77
Useful 12 9 11
Very or Essential 10 15 13
Masonry Little or None 86 85 85
Useful 5 5 5
Very or Essential 10 10 10
Mechanics Little or None 71 71 71
Useful 10 5 7
Very or Essential 20 25 22
Sewing/Embroidery/ Carpet Making Little or None 63 57 60
Useful 2 5 3
Very or Essential 35 39 37
Welding/ Blacksmith Little or None 66 61 64
Useful 5 9 7
Very or Essential 29 30 29
Tailoring Little or None 57 55 56
Useful 12 5 8
Very or Essential 31 41 36
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 96/102
Annex 1.2: Mazar-i Sharif
As illustrated in Figure 2, slightly more than 50% of respondents believe that English, either
basic or advanced is either useful, very useful or essential, which is slightly higher than Pul-i
Khumri and may be accounted for by a more trading orientated labour market and the need
to converse with trading partners combined with a desire to increase an employees
knowledge of English for greater employment opportunities, which was often reported
during key informant interviews in Mazar. Demand for IT courses, whether basic or
advanced, were similar to levels of interest in English courses and remain useful, very useful
or essential for close to half of employer and employee respondents.
34.2% 36.7%
40.1% 47.5%
58.4% 64.9%
73.0% 84.9%
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Basic English Advanced
English
Basic IT Advanced IT Basic
Accounting
Advanced
Accounting
Basic
Vocational
Training
Advanced
Vocational
Training
Very Useful or Essential Useful Little or No Benefit
Figure 2: Utility of skill sets in the fulfilment of mandated roles (employers and employees grouped)
Accounting was also perceived as a beneficial skill for the workplace as 58.4% of combined
respondents reported that basic accounting is very useful or essential and 64.9% claimed
the same sentiment towards advance accounting skills. Advanced vocational training
courses, according to the 400 respondents, are most in demand with a strong belief (almost
85%) that they are either essential or very useful for the respondent’s current position.
The vocational training skills perceived to be the most beneficial for both employers and
employees were reported as tailoring (36%), sewing and carpet making (36%), construction
(34%), welding and blacksmithing and (34%) (see Table 2 for complete breakdown). There is
little discrepancy between the responses from employers and employ with the primary
demands closely aligning with the economic sectors reported in qualitative interviews: the
construction and services sectors.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 97/102
Table 2: Utility of vocational trainings in the fulfilment of mandated roles (tabular format)
Vocational Training Perceived Utility
Employers
(%)
Employees
(%)
Mean
(%)
Animal Husbandry Little or None 80 84 82
Useful 3 4 4
Very or Essential 17 12 14
Bicycle Repair Little or None 90 90 90
Useful 3 4 4
Very or Essential 7 5 6
Machine Lathing Little or None 82 82 82
Useful 2 3 3
Very or Essential 16 15 16
Carpentry Little or None 69 69 69
Useful 5 7 6
Very or Essential 25 24 25
Construction Little or None 59 60 59
Useful 6 7 7
Very or Essential 35 33 34
Generator Repair Little or None 61 64 62
Useful 15 11 13
Very or Essential 24 25 25
Masonry Little or None 81 81 81
Useful 4 6 5
Very or Essential 15 13 14
Mechanics Little or None 72 74 73
Useful 7 7 7
Very or Essential 21 19 20
Sewing/Embroidery/ Carpet Making Little or None 57 57 57
Useful 5 8 7
Very or Essential 38 35 36
Welding/ Blacksmith Little or None 63 61 62
Useful 1 7 4
Very or Essential 36 32 34
Tailoring Little or None 58 55 56
Useful 9 6 8
Very or Essential 33 39 36
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 98/102
Annex 1.3: Kandahar City
Kandahar differs to the cities of Pul-Khumri and Mazar-e Sharif in that there appears to be a greater
appreciation for vocational trades, such as mechanics or tailoring, in place of an English language
ability, IT skills and basic accounting. Advanced vocational training, for example, was recorded as
three times as beneficial in the workplace than advanced English (75% to 25%) of respondents. In
regards to IT, there was a slight preference for basic IT skills (29.9%) in contrast to advanced IT skills
(29.6%), suggesting that firms are more looking at IT as a functional tool, rather than a method to
create efficiencies, although other factors are also mot likely at play.
24.4% 23.8%
29.9%
29.6%
48.0%
51.0%
67.1%
78.6%
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Basic English Advanced
English
Basic IT Advanced IT Basic
Accounting
Advanced
Accounting
Basic
Vocational
Training
Advanced
Vocational
Training
Very Useful or Essential Useful Little or No Benefit
Figure 3: Utility of skill sets in the fulfilment of mandated roles (employers and employees grouped)
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey 99/102
Table 3: Utility of vocational trainings in the fulfilment of mandated roles (tabular format)
Vocational Training Perceived Utility
Employers
(%)
Employees
(%)
Mean
(%)
Animal Husbandry Little or None 54 57 56
Useful 22 25 23
Very or Essential 24 18 21
Bicycle Repair Little or None 61 55 58
Useful 23 25 24
Very or Essential 16 20 18
Machine Lathing Little or None 32 37 35
Useful 27 30 29
Very or Essential 40 33 37
Carpentry Little or None 38 34 36
Useful 27 32 29
Very or Essential 35 34 35
Construction Little or None 19 17 18
Useful 19 22 20
Very or Essential 62 61 61
Generator Repair Little or None 26 31 29
Useful 24 23 23
Very or Essential 50 46 48
Masonry Little or None 68 64 66
Useful 16 16 16
Very or Essential 16 20 18
Mechanics Little or None 18 14 16
Useful 30 27 28
Very or Essential 52 59 55
Sewing/Embroidery/ Carpet Making Little or None 21 25 23
Useful 26 26 26
Very or Essential 53 50 51
Welding/ Blacksmith Little or None 26 26 26
Useful 29 25 27
Very or Essential 45 49 47
Tailoring Little or None 20 16 18
Useful 19 18 18
Very or Essential 61 66 63
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey
100/102
Annex 1.4: Kunduz City
Similar to Kandahar, there is a greater reliance in and belief that the more practical skills of
vocational training and skill sets are of greater benefit than an education in English, IT and
accounting. For example approximately 29% of respondents (both employers and employees)
responded that both basic and advanced English were very useful or essential in contrast to 71.2% of
people who claimed that advanced vocational training was essential or very useful. (for the
complete figures, please see Figure 4).
29.0% 28.7% 32.7% 31.3%
40.0% 36.6%
65.2% 71.2%
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Basic English Advanced
English
Basic IT Advanced IT Basic
Accounting
Advanced
Accounting
Basic
Vocational
Training
Advanced
Vocational
Training
Very Useful or Essential Useful Little or No Benefit
Figure 4: Utility of skill sets in the fulfilment of mandated roles (employers and employees grouped)
The trend of turning towards more practical skills is maintained in the question to respondents on,
which forms of vocational training they would believe would be beneficial to their current
workplace. Skills such as welding, construction, mechanics as well as tailoring and carpet weaving all
were considered as very useful or essential by close or greater than 50% of combined employers and
employees. When combined with respondents who claimed that the trades would be ‘useful’ the
same trades are therefore favoured by the overwhelming number of respondents as providing
added value to their current occupation.
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey
101/102
Table 4: Utility of vocational trainings in the fulfilment of mandated roles (tabular format)
Vocational Training Perceived Utility
Employers
(%)
Employees
(%)
Mean
(%)
Animal Husbandry Little or None 57 61 59
Useful 19 18 19
Very or Essential 24 21 22
Bicycle Repair Little or None 77 81 79
Useful 18 13 16
Very or Essential 5 5 5
Machine Lathing Little or None 46 48 47
Useful 24 32 28
Very or Essential 30 20 25
Carpentry Little or None 48 43 46
Useful 24 26 25
Very or Essential 28 31 29
Construction Little or None 31 34 33
Useful 19 22 20
Very or Essential 50 44 47
Generator Repair Little or None 45 40 42
Useful 28 28 28
Very or Essential 28 32 30
Masonry Little or None 75 68 71
Useful 9 15 12
Very or Essential 16 18 17
Mechanics Little or None 23 22 22
Useful 22 21 21
Very or Essential 55 57 56
Sewing/Embroidery/ Carpet Making Little or None 27 23 25
Useful 23 27 25
Very or Essential 50 51 50
Welding/ Blacksmith Little or None 30 30 30
Useful 23 20 22
Very or Essential 46 50 48
Tailoring Little or None 28 22 25
Useful 16 19 17
Very or Essential 56 59 58
Mercy Corps – Labour Market Survey
102/102
Contacts:
Samuel Hall Consulting
Qala-e-Fatullah, Street 5
Kabul, AFGHANISTAN
Kabul: +93 796 60 60 28
Paris: +33 666 48 88 32
development@samuelhall.org
Samuel Hall is a research and consulting company with headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. We
specialise in perception surveys, policy and socio-economic research, evaluations and impact
assessments for governmental and non-governmental organisations. Our teams of technical experts,
practitioners, and researchers have years of field and research experience in Afghanistan. This has
allowed us to (i) acquire a firm grasp of the political and socio-cultural context of development in
Afghanistan; (ii) design data collection methods and statistical analyses for monitoring, evaluation and
planning of programmes; (iii) apply cross-disciplinary knowledge in providing integrated solutions for
policy interventions.

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