Causes of Poverty in Tunisia

Causes of Poverty in Tunisia

The pressing issue of poverty in the North African country of Tunisia needs to be addressed. While attempting to understand the causes of poverty in Tunisia, patterns of unemployment, food insecurity and civil unrest have become most apparent.

In 2021, Tunisia’s poverty rate rose to 16.6% from 15.2% in 2015 and it has been projected to increase further to 17.1% in 2024. Furthermore, although the nation has experienced some economic growth in the tourism sector (+17% year-on-year) and transportation (+5%), over the years, the wealth achieved so far is unevenly distributed, with those living in the coastal regions benefiting more than those in the inland areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused a rise in unemployment, which has worsened the situation.

Poverty, in particular, affects those in central Tunisia at a higher rate than those on the outskirts of the country’s borders.

3 Leading Causes of Poverty in Tunisia

Hunger is a pressing issue within Tunisia that contributes to poor living conditions for many. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 12.6% or more than 1.5 million of Tunisia’s population experienced severe or moderate food insecurity in 2022. One of the primary causes of food insecurity in Tunisia is the country’s dependence on agricultural imports, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbating the situation. Many problems are associated with malnutrition on such a large scale, including limits to economic productivity and increased health costs for many.

Tunisia also has a remarkably high unemployment rate, which affects, in particular, the youths. The country’s unemployment rate reached approximately 16% in the first quarter of 2023, one of the highest among countries in the Middle East and Central Asia. The high unemployment rate among youth is due to various structural and policy factors, including the fact that the demand for skilled labor is primarily concentrated in the public administration sector, which faces constraints due to budgetary limitations and the trends of privatization and deregulation.

The civil unrest that has plagued Tunisia since 2011 is another one of the significant causes of poverty in Tunisia. The political instability resulting from the Ben Ali regime stems from dissatisfaction with poverty and unemployment that plague many Tunisians. This unrest has since driven away tourists and business investors alike, which has further increased unemployment for Tunisians, as not enough jobs are being created to meet the demands of the growing workforce.

Organizations Tackling Poverty in Tunisia

There are several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working to combat hunger, unemployment and poverty in Tunisia. Among them is Islamic Relief, which has been operational in the country since 2011. Since its establishment, the nonprofit has been running a program that ensures more than 270 school children receive daily meals.

Moreover, the organization is dedicated to enhancing the lives of Tunisians by collaborating with farmers and offering vocational training to the youth. This initiative aims to equip them with the skills needed for self-employment, ultimately breaking the cycle of unemployment and poverty.

Another notable nonprofit in Tunisia is the Tunisian Youth Alternative Network (RAJ TUNISIE), founded in 2013 in response to the civil unrest that began in 2011. Serving as a mediator between various stakeholders, the organization focuses on youth issues, encouraging greater participation among young Tunisians in building the “new democratic and pluralist Tunisia.”

Final Remark

Like every other country, Tunisia is facing some challenges like high youth unemployment rates, civil unrest and poverty. However, several NGOs, such as the Islamic Relief, are actively at the forefront in the fight against poverty in Tunisia.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr
Updated: May 27, 2024