The escalating living crisis in areas under regime control is fueling a wave of mass resignations from formal employment. Observers anticipate that the regime will attempt to address this exodus by turning to privatization. However, due to the limited size of the private sector, achieving this solution proves to be challenging, exacerbating the unprecedented employment crisis.
According to al-Watan, a pro-Arab newspaper, Muneem Othman, the head of the Lattakia Workers’ Union, revealed that the number of resignations in the governorate has surpassed 900 since the start of 2023. The majority of these resignations come from labour-intensive sectors such as spinning and weaving. Additionally, many workers are compelled to leave their jobs due to the requirement of paying transportation fees, as the workplace is located far from their homes. Those who resign are now seeking alternative employment options, such as working on farmland or becoming taxi drivers. These occupations, though seemingly simple, offer significantly higher income compared to their previous monthly salaries.
Barely any salaries
The average government salary, amounting to 150,000 Syrian pounds, is highly modest when compared to the average cost of living for an average family, estimated at 6,500,000 Syrian pounds. This indicates that the salary comprises a mere 2.5 percent of the average cost of living.
Economist Radwan al-Debs attributes the rising number of job dropouts to the absence of benefits that were previously available in government jobs and the unprecedented decline in the value of government salaries. The monthly salary now only covers expenses for a period as short as two or three days.
Speaking to al-Modon, Debs emphasizes that the uncertain future of government employment, resulting from the potential sale, leasing, or transfer of government sectors to entities such as Iran, Russia, or the private sector, instills a sense of insecurity in employees.
Debs asserts that the widespread resignations can be seen as employees abandoning the government system before it collapses. This mass exodus has a detrimental impact on government sectors, particularly with the loss of administrative, medical, and technical expertise due to extensive resignations.
With the public treasury facing bankruptcy, the government is actively seeking to offload the financial burden of managing and funding the public sector by turning to the private sector. Debs further explains that even the meager benefits provided to employees have become increasingly difficult to attain, leading to an increase in cases of selling, leasing, and guaranteeing government institutions.
Privatization is not a solution
Karam Shaar, the director of the Syrian program at the Observatory of Economic and Political Networks, predicts that if salaries continue to remain at their current inadequate levels, the frequency of resignation requests will escalate. He views these requests as a logical response, particularly when transportation costs consume a significant portion of already insufficient salaries.
Shaar highlights that resignations are primarily concentrated in the industrial sectors, which lack alternative income sources such as bribes that are more prevalent in the service sectors. Over the past two years, the government has attempted to provide incentives to boost productivity in the industrial sectors as a means to deter job dropouts.
Shaar believes that the regime is pursuing a path of privatization, as it no longer feels obliged to retain a large number of public sector employees. Consequently, the regime aims to reduce the size of the public sector, maximize sales and leases, and transfer ownership to the private sector.
However, comprehensive privatization cannot be fully implemented due to the inevitable consequence of citizens having to pay significantly higher prices for services, which would not be proportionate to their limited incomes. This perspective is echoed by Abdel Hakim al-Masri, the Minister of Economy in the interim government, who stated that the regime could transfer public banks to the private sector, except for the Central Bank. Masri explains that while salaries in the private sector are generally better than those in the public sector, the absorptive capacity of the private sector is limited. Consequently, a severe crisis persists in the employment sectors, for which the regime struggles to find viable solutions.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.