Bahraini jobseekers demonstrate outside ministry hinting at possible wide-spread crisis
Unempolyed Bahraini social sciences graduates demonstrated outside the Education Ministry, Isa Town, demanding teaching jobs or training that will guarantee employment.
This was the fourth in a string of similar demonstrations, and some demonstrators claimed that they have been out of work for many years.
The demonstrators were demanding the implementation of parliamentary decisions relating to posts in schools, for local Bahrainis.
17 July 2009
Analysis and forecast (↑ increasing risk)
Although the numbers of demonstrators were reportedly small, unease amongst the local Bahraini population about Bahraini work opportunities in general, and in particular in the field of education, is slowly brewing.
Bahrain is one of the Arab world’s most densely populated countries with significant Shiite and Sunni local and expatriate populations. There have been occasional clashes between the local Shiite population and the governing Sunnis over the past several decades, but those have generally subsided since parliamentary life was reinstated in 2002. However, the combination of its GDP being less reliant on oil revenue as other GCC states and the ethnic mix of the indigenous population, make the issue of “Bahrainisation” of jobs more pressing. Besides job demands, rapid inflation the past couple of years has created a great deal of unease amongst the poorer sections of the Bahraini society, who are predominantly Shiite, causing the government to pay the so-called “inflation allowance” of BD 50 (about US $ 130) to families earning less than BD1,500 a month.
The demands of greater employment opportunities are a more serious and long-term issue than what the inflation allowance has attempted to tame.
Although demonstrations are more common in Bahrain than in some other GCC states, the increasing frequency of those and the growing public opposition to the recruitment of foreigners in some sectors, particularly education, has to be addressed by the authorities before the issue evolves into more serious crisis. Teachers are mostly recruited from other Arab countries including Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The government has recently said that it was going ahead with recruiting over 100 teachers from those countries this year to avoid a shortage in teachers, as it was unable to recruit locally. Critics claim that income expectations of locals are much higher than those coming from poorer countries and therefore the jobs being offered to the locals are not a realistic option for them. Despite this, opposition towards recruiting foreign teachers is now being matched by demands for greater employment opportunities.
Some of the opposition towards recruiting teachers from predominantly Sunni Arab countries comes from Shiites, who contend that the government is trying to shift the population make-up towards creating a Sunni majority.
The recent demonstrations therefore have the possibility of quickly deteriorating into more widespread crisis, both about foreign employers in the country as well as ethnic equality.
The following figure shows the make up of the Bahraini GDP.
The following figure shows the make-up of local Bahrainis.