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Life Arts

The Unemployed Men of Afghanistan, PHOTO-ESSAY

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Ralph Lopez     Permalink
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Going into the ninth year of the occupation with a persistent 40-50 percent unemployment rate, here are some photos I took of the men who gather in Sar-e-Chowk, Pul-e-khishtee, and Shahr-e-now Squares in Kabul beginning at 4a.m. on any morning hoping to be picked up for a day's work. The going rate for a day of unskilled labor is about $4 a day, though often the men will bargain down to $1 if they are desperate (again, that's per day, not per hour.) You are lucky if you get one or two days work a week, and you can stand for weeks getting no work at all. These were taken in June of last year. Since the military "surge" nothing has changed.

Note own painting gear cleaned and ready to work

Probably 1500 to 3000 men gather in the larger squares on any given day.

Man in suit could be a book-keeper or accountant looking for office work

Very calm and patient gentlemen, some wary of having their picture taken. Obviously some kind of community had formed, friendships, food-sharing.

The author is co-founder of Jobs for Afghans, a peaceful solution to the war.


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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on the (more...)

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