Clear criminal record: a document denying engineers in Homs job opportunities

Trainee engineers visiting a construction site in Homs - September 2020 (Syrian Engineers Association - Homs branch)

Trainee engineers visiting a construction site in Homs - September 2020 (Syrian Engineers Association - Homs branch)

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Homs – Orwah al-Mundhir

On 15 May, the Syrian Presidency of the Council of Ministers issued Decision No. 695, appointing engineering graduates of the academic year 2018/2019, who applied to employment competitions for public offices in Syrian ministries having vacancies in return for minimal wages. Meanwhile, thousands of other engineers could not apply due to their inability to obtain a clear criminal record. 

University graduates in Homs struggle to find job opportunities amid low salaries and difficult living conditions. The situation is even harder for engineering graduates required by the public and private sectors to obtain a legal document verifying they have spotless judicial and military records. This requirement prevented mandatory military evaders from applying to jobs and forced them to seek alternative solutions, mainly to travel abroad, which is sometimes impossible to opt for. 

Understudied appointment in return for minimal wages

Upon recruiting or appointing employees in government jobs, the Syrian State does not give importance to employees’ compatibility to the available position or job requirements and offers minimum wages, opening gates to bribery and corruption.   

Mechanical engineering graduate Samer DaIleh, who was appointed at the Education Directorate of Homs, told Enab Baladi that the government’s recruitment decision does not take into account the area of competence or the applicant’s listed preferences like work proximity to the place of residence, as distances add to financial burdens of job seekers.

When appointed in the public sector, engineers are paid salaries of 42,000 Syrian pounds (SYP = 13 USD), while in the private sector, their salaries range between 150,000 and 400,000 SYP (47-125 USD), depending on the field of expertise and place of work.

According to DaIleh, government-paid salaries can barely cover transportation costs at best. The low wages of the public sector have placed graduates at the mercy of the private sector, demanding excessive work in return for paltry salaries compared to the Syrian pound’s exchange rate and living conditions.

Clear criminal record prerequisite depriving youth of work

Among the papers required from accepted applicants to vacancies in the public and private sectors is a clean criminal record vindication obtained from the Ministry of Interior. This document is problematic to military service drafters, who are criminalized by Syrian law and prevented from employment in government jobs.

Oday Noureddine was among those recently nominated by the government for a public sector vacancy and told Enab Baladi that the fact of being a military deserter and not being able to obtain a clear criminal record document has caused him to lose the right to the position he was appointed at.

Noureddine added that only female applicants and engineers who served in the regime’s army were appointed government jobs, and this is how the regime rewards its supporters.

The scarcity of employment opportunities has pushed many Syrian young people to consider traveling abroad and immigrating for work or resettling. However, the regime’s political relations with the Gulf States and the region have made it difficult if not impossible for Syrians to obtain a work visa in these countries, not to mention the complications imposed by the lockdowns that took place following the worldwide spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Omar Hamdan, a civil engineer from Homs, told Enab Baladi that he traveled to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan in early 2012 and returned a month ago. He paid 1,200 USD for the visa but could not find a job close to his field of work. In Erbil, he could only find work in paint or maintenance workshops for wages no more than 200 USD monthly. 

The last government appointment of engineers in the public sector took place in April 2019 and involved graduates of the academic year 2016/2017. Back then, 6,000 engineers applied to the recruitment competition, and all were accepted. In the recent appointment decision, only 6,413 applicants were approved out of 9,408, marking 68 percent of the total number of applicants. 

The Syrian Presidency of the Council of Ministers has been adopting a new appointing mechanism through its website, in which the selection of applicants is automated according to the needs of government bodies and the applicants’ preferences.

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