Breaking the cycle of poverty in Tunisia

In Tunisia, the ongoing threat of terrorism and the struggle after the country's revolution has driven away many tourists, which has increased unemployment, especially among young people. It's happening in a country already experiencing deep inequalities in underprivileged regions where the Tunisian revolution took root. ILO reports from a country undergoing transformation.

Our impact, their voice

Poverty is a fact of life for many people in Tunisia. Working together with government, trade unions and local communities, the ILO launched a series of pilot projects to break the cycle of poverty in some of the country's most underprivileged areas.

Social dialogue and the spirit of cooperation and participation are among the country's strengths; the "Tunisian Quartet" including members of the workers' and employers' organizations, UGTT and UTICA were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.
  1. "The international community can help Tunisia by investing in its future (…) because Tunisia's democracy is today a global public good."

    Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, Tunisian Minister for Foreign Affairs

  1. "We have to work together, hand in hand, if we are to turn the corner and move on."

    Wided Bouchamaoui, President of UTICA

  1. "Without the work of the Quartet, the post-revolutionary process in Tunisia would have gone the way of other countries."

    Houcine Abassi, Secretary General of the UGTT trade union

 

The Nobel Peace Prize spotlights social dialogue

The awarding of Nobel Peace Prize is recognition that social dialogue at all levels - from policymakers to the grassroots - can effectively fight poverty. Strong cooperation between government and social partners including effective collective bargaining, can promote a more equitable distribution of a country's wealth and income.

Roots of the revolution

Poverty and the lack of decent work opportunities in the country's underprivileged regions were among the chief triggers of Tunisia's revolution in 2011.

250 kilometers south of the capital of Tunis, the town of Sidi Bouzid came to symbolize the uprising that led to the collapse of Tunisia's dictatorship. It was there that Mohamed Bouazizi, a young street vendor driven to despair by the impossibility of earning a living and harassment by municipal officials, set himself on fire in front of the governor's offices. It was the catalyst for the revolution that toppled the government.

New prospects for work

  1. "Life is still tough. But for me, the construction of the new market in Sidi Bouzid is a good thing."

    Salah Bouazizi, 31, street vendor in Sidi Bouzid

  1. "Thanks to the construction work on the new market, I've been able to get other contracts."

    Dali Karim, 31, entrepreneur in Sidi-Bouzid

  1. "I've had my Master's degree for four years and during those four years I've had a lot of difficulty finding work. That's a problem facing all young graduates in Tunisia."

    Fatma Jaballi, 30, Farmer in Regueb


A new marketplace and jobs through local economic development


In Sidi Bouzid, the ILO, working with its partners, began a pilot project to build a covered market in the centre of town. The project is expected to transform the town centre and allow vendors to work and sell their goods in decent conditions.

Helping local people develop new skills

Not far from Sidi Bouzid, the village Regueb is renowned for the fertility of its soil. The Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas (AZD), financed by the European Union and implemented by the ILO, is helping local people develop agricultural skills. Thanks to the ILO pilot project, nearly 100 people have been trained in pruning and grafting fruit trees, market gardening, and the harvesting, packaging and processing of local produce.

One of the biggest challenges facing Tunisia's young democracy is that many young graduates cannot find work. Fatma Jaballi earned a Master's degree in Geology but with no job on the horizon, returned to her parent's farm.



Training is essential

In the small hilltop town of Kesra, another ILO AZD project is stimulating local economic activity. Wided Bougrine, a young hydraulics engineer recently graduated from university started an irrigation project. A steady water source increased the potential for agriculture, especially the production of figs.

The ILO programme provided equipment for processing figs and supported the technical training of twenty women, who received certificates of competence. Today, the group - made up of the town's women, most of whom were unemployed - is busy making and marketing several products, including fig jam that is sold as far away the country's capital.
 

Putting their skills to work

  1. “After graduating, I was able to get my first professional experience thanks to the installation of an irrigation system in my home village of Kesra.”

    Wided Bougrine, 28, hydraulics engineer in Kesra

  1. "Thanks to the ILO irrigation project, I've been able to expand my activities. I hope soon to be able to hire agricultural workers."

    Mohamed Ali Belgacem, 27, farmer in Kesra

  1. "After four years without a job, I've finally been able to start a paid activity."

    Sabrine Ben Hnia, 26, employee of the Kesra Association for the Production of Fig Jam


Recovering from the jobs crisis in Tunisia through decent work

For Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, the Minister of Social Affairs, quality jobs and stimulating the creation of new enterprises are vitally needed. He is counting on local communities, workers’ and employers’ organizations and international support from the ILO and its partners to help Tunisia's transition to democracy.



Poverty reduction was one of the themes of the 105th Session of the International Labour Conference and of the 2016 edition of the ILO World Employment and Social Outlook report.