Yemen is currently engaged in a national dialogue. It is a vital phase of the reconciliation process launched in the aftermath of last year’s crisis. A political agreement was reached, sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council and supported by the international community, which included a commitment to reform the structure of the state to address long standing political fault lines between the north and the south, and regional grievances over the concentration of power in the capital, Sana’a.
Over the course of our research we have encountered a number of explanations for the difficulties people face in finding jobs in the Middle East and North Africa region. Some contend that there are simply no jobs, while others that they don’t have the qualifications for the jobs that are available, and still others feel that they do not have the means or tools at their disposal to find potential jobs, a situation that economists refer to as, “poor labor market intermediation.”
This weekend, as I packed my suitcase for Beirut, I thought of the warm and welcoming people I’ll be working with over the next two weeks. This is my fourth visit to Lebanon this year, and each one has provided me with a different glimpse into Lebanese politics and society. It has helped me to understand the aspirations of some of the country’s citizens and the constraints faced by its policymakers.
There is more to unemployment than the simple fact of not having a job. It brings with it a whole set of additional difficulties, and on a large scale can have far reaching social consequences. This is especially true for young people struggling with a lack of stable employment and weak prospects for landing any permanent work. Jobs are an important source of social identity, and without one, young people can be cast adrift.
On Monday, September 17th, I had an online chat with a number of youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region on the topic of jobs and employment. I received hundreds of comments and questions before the chat, interacted with tens during an hour and a half and kept receiving comments and questions for two days after the chat. The process had a deep impact on me. It was refreshing, amazing, encouraging but also concerning.
High unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) largely reflects the growth deficit. While China has been growing at 10 percent for a decade and has unemployment below 5 percent. MENA is the mirror image, growing at 5 percent and suffering unemployment above 10 percent. The absence of strong growth in MENA has been a serious constraint to employment. It's worth noting though that MENA’s employment situation is not accurately described by the jobless growth that has plagued much of the industrial world in recent years.
Unemployment, cronyism, bad governance and lack of transparency and accountability were factors that have contributed to the Arab Spring. However, worries over employment stem beyond the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the challenges facing southern Mediterranean countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal and other troubled EU economies. A Gallup poll provides a global perspective on this issue
Recent events across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have underscored the urgent need to ensure job creation and an enabling environment for a young and better-educated, more skilled labor force. The international economic crisis has further deepened the problem in a region that is characterized by the world’s highest youth unemployment rate and the lowest female labor force participation.
Driving through the Wall that hems in the Palestinian city of Ramallah I am always struck by the number of high-rise buildings under construction, the numerous expensive cars and latest cafes. To the eye it appears that Ramallah is a rapidly growing capital of a booming middle-income country. However, I know that this is a mirage. It masks the dire poverty in Gaza, in the rural areas of the West Bank and in the refugee camps that dot the countryside. The minute one passes through the checkpoint into Gaza – something few people get to do – the expensive cars are gone, replaced by donkey carts, piles of trash and the misery of a captive population.
The Financial Times issued its ranking of the world’s top 70 executive business programs. Nearly all successful emerging economies are on the list, as are advanced economies, but no program in MENA has made the list. Several countries have multiple programs represented in their domain, such as Chile, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Singapore, to name a few. Executive programs are an important indicator for future top management and leadership role jobs.