Finding opportunities where hope is lost
by Micheline Sleibi
High regard for education comes at a high price in Palestine, not only in terms of money and opportunities but also the resultant high unemployment rates amongst graduates – especially females. For youngsters in the Palestinian Territories – which suffers from a fragile economy and lack of foreign investment at the best of times – finding opportunities where hope has been lost is a difficult journey and not one to be ignored.
In a population where one in every three people is young, 40% of its youth are unemployed. There are problems with unskilled labour, problems filling local or even regional jobs. Hope, therefore, lies in an education system that is currently in need of a major overhaul.
The fragile socio-economic and political contexts in this area weaken its ability to overhaul the economy and this is especially worrying in the absence of a competent youth.
With scarce and limited access to natural resources, the Palestinian Authority (PA) needs to focus on strategies to invest in its youth and support its potential capabilities. This can only start with significant and bold efforts on behalf of the PA to reassess and realign its educational system to meet the aspirations of its youth and its economic needs.
However, with significant amount of budget being spent on supporting the PA, its entities and public servants, the PA risks further frustration and despair amongst its only economic resource – its youth. Rethinking how the welfare system works and its structures could ultimately ease the transition of their most competent youngsters to assume government positions and initiate reforms – political reforms that focus on national goals and aspirations, and not partisan agendas. Such a huge shift can only be achieved if the education system can produce the human resources needed for such a national strategy.
The PA’s financial funds are further aggravated by its reliance on imported energy supplies mainly from Israel, Jordan and Egypt. The PA can reduce this reliance by further investing in clean energy sources such as solar, geothermal and biomass. With PA and investor readiness, as well as infrastructure and policies in place, this sector can generate promising employment opportunities. It is high time to develop a reliant and sustainable energy sector that would absorb the high unemployment rate among youth. However, this infrastructure cannot be installed, maintained or upgraded without the necessary know-how.
The Information Communication Technologies (ICT) sector is another promising sector the PA should invest in and capitalise on, especially in terms of cost efficiencies should a technological solution be sought to revamp entire government systems – or at least the education system. A downside to the growth of the ICT sector is the lack of penetration of ICT within the public and private sectors. As demand for IT services increases globally, the demand for tech-savvy young professionals will too. The ICT sector’s GDP contribution to the PA’s economic growth is currently operating below its potential; however, with timely education and economic interventions, a viable outsourcing opportunity provides a potential gateway for Palestinians to provide IT services to customers internationally. It is high time to seek opportunities in sectors with high economic and employment potential, and with the capacity to alleviate the socio-economic situation for youths in the region.