Industrial sector collapses as competencies and professionals flee Syria
Enab Baladi – Jana al-Issa
The number of workers who have left their jobs in the private sector in Syria since 2011 has reached about 900,000 workers, 200,000 of them as a result of the war, and the rest as a result of travel due to difficult living conditions, showed statistics of the Chamber of Industry of Damascus and its countryside.
Statistics published by the state-run Tishreen newspaper on 19 December 2022 showed that about a third of public sector workers resigned during the same period, which is estimated at more than 30,000 workers out of 87,057 workers in the public sector in its various institutions.
The statistic, which sparked widespread controversy at the time due to the high rate of resignations and leaving work in the public and private sectors alike, was deleted by Tishreen newspaper from its official website and its digital accounts via social media days after its publication, and the Chamber of Industry later disavowed it, saying such report is not credible.
Ghazwan al-Masri, the head of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Industry and the head of the Chamber of Industry of Damascus and its countryside, commented on the numbers by saying that the Chamber of Industry did not issue this statistic, and it does not have statistics on that.
Al-Masri assured that “there is currently no emigration of industrialists, and that the industry is regaining its strength, and the evidence for this is the presence of 400 modern industrial facilities that started production during the past year.”
At the same time, al-Masri confirmed that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the industrial sector, but he attributed the reasons for this to the fact that many industrial facilities went out of business as a result of their destruction as a result of the war.
In this report, Enab Baladi tries to investigate the implications of the numbers that the Chamber of Industry in Damascus and its countryside did not recognize as valid but confirmed the shortage of workers and the impact of this on the industrial sector, which records successive losses of capital, as a result of the current production conditions and the obstacles accompanying the process.
Imad al-Din al-Musbih, an economist and a professor at the Arab East Colleges, considered that these numbers of workers leaving their jobs in Syria indicate a collapse in the infrastructure of the Syrian economy.
“It is a result of the cessation of labor establishments in various sectors, whether industrial, commercial, vocational or agricultural, which led to layoffs,” he adds.
Since 2011, many industrial facilities have stopped working for several reasons, including their inability to withstand unfavorable working conditions, high production costs, and the lack of access to raw materials and energy factors sufficient to operate them.
In addition to the security conditions represented by the domination of the security services and behind them, the mafias that impose royalties on the facilities for their survival, al-Musbih told Enab Baladi.
Al-Musbih attributed the high number of workers who left the market in the establishments that are still working until now to the value of the wages they receive, which are below the “subsistence limit,” which forces them to either continue this work in addition to searching for a second source of income illegally or leave work market and emigrate outside Syria, if possible.
|The “subsistence limit” is the income sufficient to provide the minimum level of living or the requirements that guarantee the survival of food, drink, clothing, and shelter within the minimum limits and without any form of luxury or comfortable life.
The average monthly salary in Syria during 2022 was about 146,000 Syrian pounds, and 50% of employees had an average salary of 146,000 pounds or less, while the other half earned more than 146,000 pounds, according to the Salary explorer website, which specializes in salary and wage scale figures around the world.
And by the end of 2022, the average cost of living for a Syrian family consisting of five members, according to the Qasioun Cost of Living Index, exceeded the barrier of four million Syrian pounds, and the minimum cost of living exceeded 2.5 million SYP, thus revealing the huge gap that separates the minimum wage in the country (It does not exceed 92,970 SYP) from the average cost of living, which is constantly rising.
Continuous drain of competencies
Mohammad Hazaa al-Hiraki, an economic advisor, told Enab Baladi that the industrialists and professionals’ emigration confirms the conclusions of most international reports issued by reputable bodies about the continued contraction in the Syrian economy, reaching a negative 2.6% in 2022, in a downward movement compared to the previous year. The deflation rate at that time was negative 2.1%, as well as the high poverty rates, in addition to the high rates of inflation.
Al-Hiraki considered that Syria as a state “ruled by a mafia” has been bleeding economically and socially since 2011, in addition to the immigration numbers from Syria, which in turn means fatal bleeding of the economy first.
A depletion of competencies, starting from doctors, experts, engineers, and most other professions, all the way to workers. Today, the Syrian market suffers from a severe shortage of human resources, which are the key to real growth, development, and reconstruction.
The problem of labor shortage is one of the most prominent problems that the industrial reality suffers from in the areas controlled by the regime. However, in addition to it, there are bigger problems related to capital flight, affected by several factors.
Louay Nahlawi, vice president of the Damascus Chamber of Industry and its countryside, revealed on 19 December 2022 that the emigration of industrialists is still continuing, calling for solutions to this because the “exceptional” conditions of the industrial sector require exceptional decisions that are in line with the current situation, and greater courage to make an immediate and fast action.
A number of challenges during the past years were faced by the industrialists who did not leave the country, which prompted them to think and seek to transfer their activities outside the country. The most important of which are the direct war costs and the sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime, and the decisions taken by the government of the regime with regard to import and export.
According to a study on “The Manufacturing Sector in Syria: The Current Model of Economic Recovery,” prepared by Dr. Joseph Daher in May 2019, the situation of the industrial sector in Syria is currently far from stability and recovery, despite the movement to reopen facilities and reach a higher level of production.
Moreover, statements of government support and measures on the sector are not sufficient to reassure the vast majority of industrialists, especially owners of small and medium enterprises.
The study confirmed that the recovery and development of the manufacturing sector could constitute a key element in the stability of the economy and the country in general, as it would boost local production and partially reduce pressure on the Syrian pound to finance imported goods.
This factor may also contribute to some extent in reducing Syria’s dependence on products imported from Iran, Russia, and other foreign countries, he adds.
Daher, a participant in the “Wartime and Post-Conflict in Syria” project, talked about the need to find alternative job opportunities to those associated with the war economy, ruling out the rise of the industrial sector in the near future.
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