Hundreds of men, some on crutches, all wearing tattered clothing, gather shortly before dawn at major intersections throughout Kabul and other Afghan cities. Displaying primitive tools such as a level or a trowel, they seek labour that is often backbreaking, always temporary, and will earn just a few dollars for a day's work.
Employers circle the intersections, eyeing the crowds. Usually, they are looking for one or two workers for minor construction tasks. Before they even stop, dozens of men swarm their vehicle, fighting with each other to get one of perhaps five or six jobs available that morning.
Despite billions of dollars from abroad to develop this impoverished country since the United States-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime in 2001, roughly 12 million people, or eight out of every 10 working-age Afghans, are unskilled day labourers, according to an International Labour Organisation report. Most land only temporary jobs.
In rural areas, work is also temporary, but it's also seasonal and often illegal, the report said. Some of the biggest employers, opium-producing poppy farmers, provide tens of thousands of short-term jobs.
But almost everywhere, the pay is meagre. Afghans with jobs, whether part-time or full-time, earn on average $410 per year, or about $1 per day, according to the World Bank.
The International Labour Organisation report, released last year, offered several grim statistics: nearly half of Afghans don't have enough to eat; 18 per cent of children under 15 years old are working; and 82 per cent of Afghans are illiterate.
Most businesses are not registered and thus do not pay taxes. That means the government, riddled with corrupt officials, is heavily dependent on international aid as well as on the black market, most often linked to the country's flourishing drug trade.