Thank you for this important contribution to the Youth Unemployment puzzle in the MENA region.
Our team just completed a new youth policy report for Tunisia and we repeatedly came across these issues. What surprised our team is how both Graphs 2 and 3 are often misinterpreted (even by World Bank staff) and can lead to harmful policy recommendations.
Graph 2: From a policy perspective, what matters is not just the unemployment rate, but of course the absolute number. In countries like Morocco and Tunisia, more than 75% of unemployed youth have not completed high school (Lycee), and government programs should arguably be re-targeted towards these disadvantaged youth.
Graph 3: We started to ask ourselves: Does this graph really tell us anything about the preferences of young people for public employment? Or does it tell us something about private sector jobs?
World Bank survey data does not support the Gallup findings. For example among Tunisia's working youth (age 15-29), only 6.8% (rural) and 12.4% (urban) are employed in the public sector (including all teachers, nurses, doctors, and other public sector jobs). Overall, we see that the young generation is disillusioned by the available public sector jobs.
The private sector in most MENA countries is highly dis-functional - both in terms of limited job availability (dozens of unemployed per job opening) and in terms of job quality (mostly informal; hardly any contracts providing job security for even 1 year). For university graduates the situation is very dire. Take Tunisia for example: jobs offered to young people are so simple, they don’t even require a high school diploma (82.5% rural; 67% urban). There is almost no productivity in such jobs, and the wages these jobs provide are shockingly low.
Effectively, the private sector has stopped being an option for youth employment. Why? Because it does not provide enough income to make ends meet. And does not offer even basic job security to start a family. In a nutshell, that is problem of youth unemployment in MENA is about.
The World Bank's MENA Youth Team combines quantitative and qualitative analysis, and works across units to make sense of the many puzzles we encounter in our work with clients in the region. A recent example from Morocco can be found here:
Promoting Youth Opportunities and Participation in Morocco