Afghanistan Labor Market

The vast majority of Afghans rely on small-scale farming or livestock care for their own households. Service industries linked to the foreign presence in the country grew strongly between 2001 and 2014. Child labor is a widespread problem.

About 60-80 percent of Afghans work in agriculture or livestock management. Just over 5 percent of the workforce is found in industries and mines, as well as in construction and road works. The others work in trade and service industries.

According to official statistics, unemployment is relatively moderate, but the figures hide widespread underemployment. Most Afghans support themselves outside the formal sector of the economy. This means that their work is not registered with the authorities and that no tax is collected to the Treasury. This could be smuggling, street sales, opium production or self-catering cultivation.

There are unions but they are very weak and are mainly active in the cities. They have no statutory right to bargain collectively. The teachers ‘and journalists’ unions are among the most active.

The proportion of women in the labor market is small. A large proportion of women instead do unpaid work in households and in the fields.

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of key population facts of Afghanistan, covering most basic population data, religion statistics, and language profiles.

Afghanistan Population

The government has banned the most dangerous forms of child labor but does not have the resources to ensure that the laws are respected. Many children are still forced into heavy work in agriculture or bricklaying.

FACTS – LABOR MARKET

Unemployment

1.5 percent (2019)

Youth Unemployment

2.6 percent (2019)

2019

December

Grim numbers over the 2010s

December 26

More than 100,000 civilian Afghans were killed or injured in the armed conflict in the 2010s, the UN reports. At the beginning of the 2020s, fierce fighting is underway in the country while negotiations between the US and the Taliban continue. The preliminary results of the presidential election (see September 2019) gave President Ghani an extremely scarce victory, but over 16,000 complaints against the election process are under investigation.

Preliminary election results give Ghani victory

December 22

The electoral authority reports a preliminary result of the presidential election on September 28, almost three months after the election and just over two months later than promised. The result gives President Ghani over 50 percent of the vote, which would mean he is re-elected already in the first round of elections if the result stands. However, he receives less than 12,000 votes and several of the opposing candidates reject the result, on the grounds that the election authority did not take into account their complaints about the voting and the electoral process.

Taliban kills 23 sleeping soldiers

December 16th

A Taliban infiltrates a military base in the Ghazni Province of eastern Afghanistan and kills at least 23 sleeping soldiers, the military reports.

The talks in Doha resume

December 7

The US and the Taliban resume talks in Doha, Qatar, both sides confirm. The goal is that the talks in Doha will lead to talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. The focus is primarily on a ceasefire and a reduction in the level of violence. President Trump interrupted talks in Qatar in September but said after a visit to Afghanistan recently that the parties were ready to talk again. President Ghani announces ceasefire after a visit by US envoy Khalilzad in Kabul, but the Taliban say the weapons can only be closed when a peace treaty with the US is signed.

November

Capture exchange between Kabul and the Taliban

November 19

The Taliban surrender an American and an Australian to the US forces in southern Afghanistan after holding them captive for three years. Both are civilian and worked at the University of Kabul when taken hostage. In exchange, the Afghan government is handing over three captured Taliban leaders. The prisoner exchange is seen by assessors as a confidence-building measure ahead of any peace talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul.

The election result is further delayed

November 13

The electoral authority postpones the announcement of the results of the presidential election on September 28, which would have been presented on November 14. This is the third time it has been delayed due to technical and administrative problems.

Uncertainty about voting

November 10

Senior Executive Abdullah Abdullah (in effect Prime Minister) says he will not accept an election result affected by cheating and demands that the ongoing vote count following the September 28 presidential election be stopped. Abdullah is one of the candidates in the election. The UN and a group of donor countries in the West are appealing to all presidential candidates not to “undermine” the election. The publication of the election results has been postponed on two occasions due to technical problems. The Election Authority has said that the result will now be presented on November 14.

October

Unusually many war victims

October 17

In its report for July, August and September, the UN Mission Unama writes that the number of civil war victims during the quarter is the highest since Unama began to carry statistics in 2009: the number of dead is 1,174 and the number of injured 3,139. ​​This is an increase of 42 percent compared to the year before. Since the turn of the year, more than 2 563 people have been killed and 5 676 injured, mainly in blasting. Of the victims, 41 percent are women and children. About three out of four have been killed or injured by the Taliban or other resistance groups. The others are victims of the government side.

UN: Hundreds killed and injured during the election period

15 October

The UN mission Unama reports that 85 people were killed and 373 injured in the violence caused by the Taliban’s attempt to sabotage the presidential election. The figures are for the period between June 8 and September 30, 2019. On election day alone, 28 civilians were killed and 249 injured. More than every third victim was a child. The attacks mainly used rockets, grenades and home-made explosive charges against polling stations, including school buildings. The figures are an improvement over the 2018 parliamentary elections, when 226 people were killed and 781 injured.

“al-Qaeda leader in South Asia dead”

October 8

Asim Umar, leader of al-Qaeda’s South Asian branch (Aqis), was killed by US and Afghan forces in a raid against a Taliban stronghold in Helmand province on September 23. It announces official Afghan sources. Asim Umar, who is said to have been a Pakistani, became the leader of Asiq in 2014. The Taliban reject the statement of Umar’s death as “propaganda fabricated by the enemy” and that the raid instead caused severe civilian losses, including at a wedding party.

UN tens of civilian casualties as the United States bombs drug factories

October 9

At least 30 civilians were killed when US and Afghan fighter jets on May 5, 2019 bombed dozens of suspected drug factories in western Afghanistan. This is what UN Mission and the UN Human Rights Agency are writing in a new report. The airstrikes took place in the Bakwa district of Farah province, to places the US military defined as a lab where the Taliban boiled methamphetamine. Shortly after the bombings, Unama received reports that civilians had been killed and injured. A four-month investigation preceded the report. Unama is still investigating some 30 suspected deaths, so the death toll may rise. The US military disputes the data in the UN report and questions the method on which the investigation is based. According to the UN report, similar labs are not legitimate targets for military attacks under international law,

Suspected election fraud and voting problems

October 7

Information comes in about suspected electoral fraud in several districts, including too high numbers in terms of turnout. Kabul reports on technical and administrative problems with voting.

September

Violent election day

September 28

Despite the wave of violence that swept across the country during the election movement, the presidential election is being held on a scheduled date. About 72,000 police and soldiers are called in to increase security; the Taliban have threatened to attack the polling stations to deter the Afghans from going and voting. According to authorities, the Taliban are carrying out some 70 attacks around the country on Election Day, with five dead soldiers and some 40 civilians injured as a result. The Afghanistan Analysts Network organization indicates a significantly higher figure: at least 400 attacks during Election Day. Tolo News reports that around 400 of the 4,900 polling stations are closed due to lack of security. Of 18 candidates, several have jumped off while others said they doubt the election will be free and fair. In an initial forecast, the electoral authority says voter turnout is low, perhaps only around 25 percent.

The Taliban re-enter WHO and the Red Cross

September 26th

The Taliban repeal the ban on the International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to operate in Taliban-controlled areas (see April 2019). Behind the ban was disagreement about polio vaccinations that the aid organizations want to do. The Taliban control about half of Afghanistan’s territory.

The US freezes aid

September 19

The US accuses the Ghani government of failing to fight corruption and withholds just over $ 160 million in direct financial support to Kabul. At the same time, the US is suspending its cooperation with the Afghan Anti-Corruption Authority. The disbursed disbursements would have mainly gone to a large energy project. Now the US is giving the money directly to the company that is holding the project instead of wasting the money through the Afghan government. Ghani has been critical of President Trump’s attempt to conclude a peace deal with the Taliban without Kabul’s participation.

Some 160 killed in new acts of violence

September 17th

During the week between September 13 and September 20, around 120 people were killed in four different acts of violence, three of which were carried out by the Taliban and one by American combat aircraft. In Charikar outside Kabul, a suicide bomber blasts at least 26 people into the air during a general election with President Ghani. The offender approaches the meeting on a motorcycle and detonates his explosive charge at the scene. President Ghani escapes unharmed. In a second attack, at least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at Massood Square in central Kabul, where, among other things, the US embassy, ​​NATO headquarters in the country and several Afghan ministries are located. This attack is also taking on the Taliban. In the third Taliban attack, some 40 people are killed when a hospital is leveled with the ground in the city of Qaiat in Zabul Province in the south. The Taliban have vowed to sabotage the presidential election scheduled for September 28. The Taliban movement does not recognize the government of Kabul but considers it illegitimate. During the week, some 30 people, including several civilians, are killed as American flights bomb suspected resistance holdings in Nangarhar Province. A few days later, Afghan flight is accused of killing some 40 civilians, including children, in a bomb attack against a wedding in the Helmand province in the south.

The US interrupts talks with the Taliban

September 7

US President Donald Trump tweeted that he had set up secret meetings that would have taken place at Camp David in the US the following day between him and the Taliban’s representatives as well as President Ghani (two separate meetings). The reason is that Trump has reacted strongly to the fact that the Taliban have carried out a series of acts of violence in Afghanistan with the aim of strengthening their negotiating position in the peace talks and that one American soldier was killed in one of the attacks. A spokesman for the Taliban says the US decision to suspend the meeting will lead to even more Americans dying in Afghanistan. US Secretary of State Pompeo says the rounds of talks are paused for the time being. The United States calls home the envoy Khalilzad, who for one year led talks between the United States and the Taliban. On September 9, Trump declares that the peace talks are “dead.”

The Taliban are attacking the city in the west

September 6

The Taliban are launching yet another offensive, this time against the city of Farah in the western part of the country. They occupy one of the army’s recruiting centers before Afghan combat helicopters, with US support, force the attackers to retreat. However, the fighting continues outside Farah. According to police sources, dozens of Taliban are killed in the fighting as well as a military police.

“Government has been informed of the agreement”

2 September

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad confirms in a television interview what US President Trump recently said, namely that the United States should take back 5,400 soldiers from Afghanistan and leave the remaining 8,600 men, so far, if the agreement becomes a reality. Khalilzad adds that he has informed the Afghan government of the content of the agreement. At the same time as the interview in Tolo News is broadcast, the Taliban are performing a blast in Kabul: at least 16 people are killed and 119 injured. The target of the attack is a housing complex for foreign nationals in Green Village, but the majority of victims are civilian Afghans.

Taliban attack on Kunduz is fought back

1 September

Afghan government forces, backed by US fighter jets, chase Taliban fighters out of Kunduz, a day after the Taliban attempted to invade the city through attacks from multiple fronts. Taliban warriors also fail to take center Pul-e Khumri in neighboring Baghlan province in northern Afghanistan. According to the Interior Ministry, 56 Taliban warriors, 20 government soldiers and five civilians are killed in the fighting.

August

Trump: US leaves 8,600 soldiers

August 30th

The US plans to reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan from today’s 14,000 soldiers to 8,600 if a deal is signed with the Taliban, states US President Donald Trump, adding that an evaluation will then be made about possibly bringing in more soldiers. In the ongoing peace talks, however, the Taliban demand that the US and NATO forces leave the country completely.

IS massacre on wedding guests

August 17th

At least 80 people are killed in a suicide attack against a Shia Muslim wedding in western Kabul. Nearly 200 wedding guests are injured in the attack, which IS takes on. Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslim minority is one of the most common targets in Sunni extremism.

Presidential candidate gives up

August 8th

Hanif Atmar, former national security adviser to Ghani, gives up the attempt to challenge his former head of the presidential post. Atmar says that the high level of violence and the threats against the candidates make him withdraw from the fight. Instead, he wants to devote himself to the ongoing work to create peace in the country. There is also information that Atmar’s campaign team had problems with internal conflicts. The electoral movement began on July 28 and has since that day been violent with dozens of deaths. It is mainly the Taliban who are behind the violence that aims to sabotage an election process that the movement considers illegal.

The number of deaths is high in July

August 3rd

In the first half of 2019, government forces and their allies killed 717 civilians, while 531 civilians were killed by Taliban and other militant resistance groups, according to the UN mission Unama. The reason the government side reaped the most casualties is that it uses combat aircraft. In July, more than 1,500 civilians were killed or injured in the Afghan conflict, more than any other month so far during the year. You have to go back to May 2017 to find a higher death rate in a month.

July

Bloody start to the electoral movement

July 28

The day before the election campaign begins, at least 20 people, the majority of civilians, are killed and about 50 are injured when President Ghani’s Vice Presidential candidate Amrullah Saleh’s campaign office in Kabul is shot for six hours and attacked by a suicide bomber. The presidential election will be held on September 28, and there are many indications that the electoral movement will be violent. Saleh, who escapes unscathed, has previously been head of the intelligence service. He is a sharp critic of both the Taliban and Pakistan. It is not known who the perpetrators are.

The government and the Taliban make a joint statement

July 9

The Taliban and the Afghan government make a joint statement following two days of talks with Qatar and Germany as hosts. The Taliban have previously refused to speak directly with the Ghani government, which they regard as illegitimate. The two parties now promise to work for an internationally monitored peace agreement and for the number of civilian casualties to be reduced to zero. In the joint statement, the parties also promise to respect women’s social, political and economic rights “within the framework of Islam” and to cease attacks on schools, hospitals and other basic infrastructure and community services.

May

Millions of internally displaced people and returning home

May 21

One in three Afghans (or about 3.5 million inhabitants) have fled their homes and become internally displaced between 2012 and 2018 due to conflict or natural disasters, according to the International Migration Organization (IOM). During the same period, around 3.2 million Afghans returned from abroad, mainly Iran and Pakistan.

Loya jirga without surprises

May 3

President Ghani convenes and leads a Loya Jirga (traditional advisory gathering) between April 29 and May 3, involving around 3,200 politicians, clan leaders and representatives of, for example, religious groups. The goal is to agree on the terms of peace agreements with the Taliban. Abdullah Abdullah and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, key politicians and former warlords, boycott the collection they believe is part of Ghana’s re-election campaign in the planned presidential election in September. Both Ghani and Abdullah are candidates for the elections. At the end of the Loya Jirgan, a “roadmap” towards peace is presented, in which an “intra-Afghan” dialogue, led by the Kabul government, is central. In plain text, this means that the government emphasizes that peace talks should be led by Kabul and that the Taliban cannot negotiate solely with the United States.

April

New Members of Parliament

26th of April

Six months after the parliamentary elections were held on October 20, 2018, the newly elected members take their seats in the legislative assembly. However, some 30 seats remain empty when allegations of electoral fraud are investigated in 33 electoral districts in Kabul.

Agreement on coordinated foreign retreat

26th of April

Representatives of the United States, China and Russia agree on a coordinated and responsible troop uprising from Afghanistan as part of an upcoming peace process. The US talks with the Taliban are based on this troop retreat in exchange for the Taliban no longer cooperating with jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (IS) and that they should not threaten security in the country.

Afghan and international forces harvest the most civilian casualties

April 24

The UN reports that for the first time in the more than 17-year war in Afghanistan, Afghan and international forces are causing more civilian casualties than the Taliban and other resistance groups. The data is for the first quarter of 2019. Most civilians are killed in air strikes and by Afghan ground troops in search of resistance. Half of the victims of the air strikes are half women and children, the UN reports.

Ghana’s term of office is extended

April 21

Afghanistan’s highest court extends President Ghani’s mandate until presidential elections are held, which is scheduled for September 28. Ghana’s regular term expires on May 22.

IS attack in Kabul

April 20

Ten people are killed in a suicide attack with subsequent firefighting in the Ministry of Communications building in Kabul. Seven of the dead are civilians and three belong to the security personnel. The Islamic State (IS) is taking on the deed. Four suicide bombers detonate their explosive charges outside the ministry before IS fighters enter the building and initiate firefighting with security personnel. Around 2,000 people are held hostage in the building before the drama gets its resolution. All perpetrators are killed and the entire personnel force escapes unharmed.

Doha calls are canceled

April 19

The meeting between the Taliban and the representatives of the Afghan government, which would have been held on April 20 in Doha, is canceled. The reason is that the Taliban cannot accept the government delegation of 250 people. The Taliban believe it is too large and that it has the wrong composition. At the same time, fighting on the ground in Afghanistan is intensifying since the Taliban launched its annual spring offensive.

ICC rejects criminal investigation

April 12

The International Criminal Court (ICC) rejects a request to investigate suspected war crimes committed during the war in Afghanistan. The Court considers an investigation as futile as the United States will not cooperate. The United States is not a member of the ICC and does not believe it can test American citizens. The request was filed by Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda who wants to see an investigation into suspected crimes committed by both the Afghan government forces and the Taliban, as well as foreign forces. Human rights groups criticize the ICC’s decision and believe that perpetrators can now feel free to commit more abuses and that victims of crime may feel betrayed.

The Taliban forbid the Red Cross and the WHO

April 11

The Taliban have so far “banned” the International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for failing to “comply with the agreements” with the Taliban. The two organizations confirm that they are interrupting their work in Afghanistan. Behind the ban is disagreement about the polio vaccinations that the aid organizations want to do. The Taliban control about half of Afghanistan’s territory.

March

The presidential election is postponed until the autumn

March 20

The presidential election is postponed for another two months to September 28, the election authority announces. The reason is that the preparations extend the time for the election process to follow the electoral laws. The electoral authority has still not finalized the result of the parliamentary elections in October 2018.

Great fighting in the south and west

March 18th

Taliban and US representatives end just over two weeks of peace talks without presenting any concrete results. At the same time, the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces in southern and western Afghanistan is intensifying with dozens dead on both sides.

February

The number of civilian deaths rose in 2018

February 24th

The armed conflict in Afghanistan claimed 3,804 civilian casualties in 2018 and 7,199 civilians were injured in the fighting that year. This was 11 percent more than 2017 and a higher figure than any other year since 2009 when comparable statistics began to be entered. It shows a UN report. The reasons why the number of civilian casualties rose was partly that the resistance groups, especially the Taliban and IS, carried out more suicide attacks and other terrorist acts, and partly that US and Afghan forces intensified their airstrikes against resistance fighters. At least 65 suicides were carried out during the year, most of them hit Kabul. Resistance groups killed more than 2,200 civilians in the country in 2018. According to the UN report, at least 32,000 civilians have been killed and around 60,000 civilians have been injured in the war since statistics began to take place a decade ago.

Ghani wants to keep a loyal jirga

February 12

President Ghani wants to convene a council meeting (loya jirga; see Political system) within the next few weeks to discuss the ongoing peace efforts. The Taliban have so far refused to talk to the government in Kabul.

Conversation in Moscow

February 5

A meeting between leading Taliban and Afghan opposition politicians is being held in Moscow by a group of Afghans in the rally. Attending the meeting include, among others, President Hamid Karzai and influential former warlords. No government representatives in Kabul are present. In the conversation, the Taliban describe how it wants to change the constitution so that it is based on Islamic Sharia law. They also say they can change their previously strict restrictions on women’s rights and freedoms as long as this does not conflict with Sharia. Sitting at the table are three women who demand strengthened rights for Afghan women. President Ghani expresses anger at the meeting and says no one at the table has the power to decide anything about the future of Afghanistan. An old warlord advocates the establishment of a transitional government to prepare for new general elections. In that government, the Taliban should also be represented, he says.

Progress in talks between the US and the Taliban

February 1st

After six days of talks, representatives of the Taliban and the United States agree on a kind of comprehensive agreement. Among other things, the US will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The talks will continue at the end of February.

January

Terrorist act against NDS base

January 22

Dozens of people are killed when an attack is carried out against a base of employees of the country’s intelligence service NDS (National Directorate of Security) in Wardak Province in central Afghanistan. The death toll varies between different sources: the local authorities say at least 65 dead, the NDS states the death toll 36 and an anonymous, highly regarded source in the military states at least 70. The Taliban take on the deed carried out with explosives and then firearms from a car. All perpetrators are killed in connection with the attack. Most casualties lose their lives when a roof collapses from the blast.

Minister accused of war crimes

January 15

Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid is accused of gross human rights violations in a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The Human Rights Organization writes that there are “credible data on serious human rights violations and war crimes”, including torture and sexual crimes, by Khalid. HRW accuses the Ghani government of not wanting to investigate allegations against Khalid for short-term political reasons ahead of the impending presidential election this summer.

Afghans return from Iran

January 8

Nearly 800,000 Afghans returned from Iran to their homeland in 2018. That was a 66 percent increase over 2017, according to the UN organization IOM. In the fall of 2018, UNHCR estimated that there were about one million registered Afghan refugees and 1.5-2 million paperless Afghans in Iran; many had crossed the border with the help of smugglers. The US sanctions against Iran make the country’s economy so tight that it has become more difficult for Afghans to find livelihoods and the collapse of the Iranian currency is shrinking their assets.

Afghanistan Labor Market