The job market in Liberia is bad and work is difficult to find even though the civil war has been over for almost 10 years. With the emergence of Ebola, many employers packed up and left the country, leaving additional people unemployed. Even healthcare workers are struggling since the clinics and hospitals are either closed or offer very limited services.
We have almost 100 national staff on contracts at our project and we hire daily workers as well, depending on the job and our needs. All of the daily workers are happy for the work but would prefer to be on contract. When a position gets posted, especially those that do not require a specific level of education, hundreds of resumes are received. Interestingly, the work week in Liberia is 48 hours. People here want to work.
My packing team is no exception. I have encouraged them to apply for the more permanent positions with MSF since packing will be done soon and I would prefer for them to have long-term employment with MSF. Many of them applied for recent posting and my colleague, hiring the manager, shared their curriculum vitae’s (CV’s) with me and we both agreed they needed some adjustments. One interesting thing is that most people here include their religion, marital status, number of children, and birthdates on their CV, which is definitely different than what we see in the USA. The problem was the missing information including education, work experience and job responsibilities.
I sat down with each of my team members to see how we could better communicate their experience and skills. I learned a lot about my team in these discussions and the reality of life in Liberia. Many had work experience that they had not listed, from housekeeping and childcare to the small business they run to try to make ends meet. There was an overarching feeling that these jobs weren’t important but for me it shows the initiative necessary to survive. We added these to their CVs and outlined the details of their work. What I found the most disturbing was that some had only attended a few years of school or never went to school at all. When put into context, the timeframe they should have been in school was the time of the civil war and education wasn’t a priority. Even now, with Ebola, all of the schools have been closed for months and talk is starting that they might open in March.
The team really appreciated my help and I enjoyed doing it. Fingers crosses that with the many opportunities in front of this mission, some of the team will get hired and become long-term members of the MSF family.