This week unions in Chad (French) are on strike. RFI writes, “One of the reasons for civil servants’ anger: salary increases, promised by the authorities but not respected.” The unions refer to an agreement concluded in November, which stipulated that a 115% salary increase would take effect in January. The government says the money has been released, and that the civil servants should go back to work.
The civil servants are likely feeling substantial economic strain. Chad’s capital N’djamena is, according to one index, the eighth most expensive city in the world for expatriates. Chad’s oil wealth has benefited some sectors of the population more than others, and the country lacks much of a middle class. A combination of factors has made life in the city expensive, and not just for foreigners and the wealthy. One Chadian news site (French) writes, “In the markets of the capital and secondary cities, the price of basic commodities constantly increases.” The government’s subsidies for goods, the article continues, have been undermined by “crooked” merchants who “create artificial shortages…then impose exorbitant prices, to the great displeasure of consumers.”
Civil servants feel the effects of the city’s high cost of living. Civil servants, moreover, may be called upon to support kin and community networks. This burden can increase during the month of Ramadan, when workers need to be able to distribute charity to the poor and feed family, friends, and neighbors.
It is hard for me to evaluate how serious the current strike is, but on a longer time span it seems like a sign that if the cost of living in N’djamena and other parts of the country remains high, and if the government and the unions cannot reach an agreement, there will be more discontent.