Attaining a university degree is of little use for Syrian youths. Now, in the presence of bullets, there is no way to earn a living but through weapons.
With the rise in unemployment and poverty rates, armed duty is one of the only ways for Syrian youth to earn money, in both regime and rebel-held areas.
The deterioration of the economic situation and the war have decreased living standards to a minimum. The Syrian economy was already suffering from a high rate of unemployment, even before the revolution, with the official unemployment rate in 2010 at 8.6%.
The most optimistic data presented by the U.N. ESCWA says three million people out of a total labor force of five million are employed. Other researchers, including the former Syrian minister of economy, Nidal al-Shaar, speaks about four million unemployed people.
The U.N. also claims half of the total Syrian population of 23 million are suffering from poverty, with 7.9 million people living under the poverty line, and 4.4 million people living in extreme poverty.
During the war, most Syrian youth turned to carrying arms, a fact that will lead to economic, social and military problems in the future.
There are currently about 650 armed men in the regime-held city of Jaramana in the Damascus countryside. Some of them were unemployed already, but some lost their jobs during the last three years and were obligated to earn a living through manning checkpoints and carrying weapons.
Meanwhile the city of Harasta, under siege for more than a year, the majority of the youth have found themselves forced to work with the extreme Islamic factions. One female activist in the city said that if the young men could have found another source, they would have done, or could have joined some other less extreme factions.
Before the outbreak of the revolution, the economic team in the Syrian government, headed by Abdullah Dardari, described "stubborn unemployment" in Syria. The regime never missed an opportunity to mention that it doesn’t have enough resources to employ the 250,000 people added annually to the labor force.
But things changed with the outbreak of the revolution, and the regime recruited 12,000 people in the Damascus countryside. The monthly salary for those employed in what is known as the People's Committees ranges between 15,000 to 20,000 Syrian Pounds. This makes the total salaries for the Damascus countryside for the regime militants to 240 million Syrian Pounds.
One economic expert said the emergence of armed duty as a source of living presents a real disaster, becasue it means that Syria is employing the labor force through armed militias inside the country.
Whether the regime stays or goes, Syria has lost the productive labor force among the regime recruits of men aged 18 years and above, not to mention the demographic risks represented in the shortage of youth in the country.
The expert said while there are no accurate statistics about the armed forces in the country, either from the regime of the opposition sides, it is clear that the majority of young men who cannot find a job and didn’t leave the country were obliged to carry weapons.
And because everybody knows that the regime doesn’t care about the future of the country, the hope lies in the liberated areas, the expert says. "why don’t they employ the young men in the rehabilitation of liberated areas, or in civil defense activities, or even in executing some productive projects? This is the responsibility of the opposition's leadership abroad" he adds.