Algeria has become one of the first countries in Africa to start a permanent unemployment benefits scheme for its young population. Surging energy prices are give this OPEC member country more firepower to tackle social unrest.
According to Algeria’s National Employment Agency, about 580,000 job-seekers between 19 and 40 years of age are eligible to collect monthly payments of $91 from the state.
While only a tiny fraction of the total population of the North African nation is jobless, the number is set to increase. The nation of approximately 44 million people has battled simmering economic discontent that has fueled three years of sporadic protests against Algeria’s ruling elite.
“I’ve been unemployed for five years and have no income,” said Fatiha, a 25-year-old master’s graduate in biology who was lining up Monday at a post office in the center of Algiers, the capital. “This payment is certainly very welcome, but I’d prefer to have a job with a good salary to help my family.”
Soaring oil and gas prices that have been spurred by the Russian invasion of Ukraine are temporarily giving more fiscal leeway for the former French colony. Since the 2014’s oil-price crash, Algeria has been finding it increasingly difficult to fund its budget. The International Monetary Fund has projected that declining international reserves might reach critical levels in 2026.
The new benefits have attracted more than 1 million applications, which the employment agency says are still being assessed. For the young citizens to qualify, an applicant needs to prove they have never had a work contract with a company and are actively looking for employment. They also need to show that they haven’t received any benefits from another state aid program, haven’t rejected more than two job offers as well as if married that their spouse has no income.
There is also growing concern that the economic problems could lead to further political unrest. “Many Algerians have turned into hoarding food and corruption is at an all-time high as a consequence of the country’s economic hardships,” as parliamentary select committee found in a damning report