Jobs sought – for 80 million people?

Jobs sought – for 80 million people? 

By Annemarie Robson – International Editor – Middle east Business – UK

Youth unemployment is covered regularly by notable publications across the world, but recently unemployment amongst the Arab youth has been placed under the microscope.

In July last year, The Economist, a British magazine, covered a story highlighting the challenges faced by certain countries in the Middle East regarding this hot potato. In their article, “Youth: Give us a chance”, a Baghdad Political Sciences student, Mustafa Tamimi, is quoted as describing universities as becoming ‘factories of unemployment’.

Notable figures in the Arab business community also recognise that something isn’t working – that something drastic needs to happen soon, or the Arab Spring will look like a mere fist fight compared to what could happen if those without jobs, without a future and without faith in their leaders to change this situation decide to act.

In Palestine, the business community attended a symposium to discuss this very issue in Jerusalem. And on an even larger world stage, at the 9th Arabian Business Forum in November 2013, Majid Jafur, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, spoke of such potential for further unrest. He was quite clear about an issue he felt was the most important but that was being ignored:

“The threat to the Middle East is instability, which is driven by its unemployment timebomb”, said Jafur.

Of course, much research has been undertaken and results published, fanning the flames of potential further unrest. The latest, published in December 2013 by The Arab Thought Foundation, and undertaken by PwC, ‘Enabling Job creation in the Arab world – a role for regional integration? ’, finds that there is a vital need to provide 80 million jobs by 2020. With the current figures of one in four young Arabs being unemployed, this is one of the highest figures for youth unemployment globally.

The main conclusions were:

•  That the education systems have failed to adequately prepare individuals to support the economy, and the importance of economic integration to create jobs by drawing on a larger pool of talent.

•  Entrepreneurship is a vital element of changing the playing field for many young people. Those setting up small and medium enterprises employ more compared to larger companies, and act as an employment catalyst.

•  Unrealistic expectations and unwillingness to take on low skilled jobs may be a real ‘deal breaker’ – with many people turning down low paid/unskilled work rather than getting onto the employment ‘ladder’.

•  Cultural and social barriers, such as those living in some areas (eg Gulf States) being unwilling to take on lower paid/manual jobs, as these roles are usually performed by migrant workers.

Anyone with ideas for creating 80 million jobs in the next six years could become an extremely influential figure in the region…!!


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