Let’s have a conversation about what exactly I should tell your Finance Minister


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          An invitation to a live web-chat on jobs in the Middle East and North Africa

This blog is part of a weekly series that we hope will provide some food for thought on the critical questions outlined in the forthcoming MENA Flagship Report on Jobs.

The Arab World faces a great opportunity with large numbers of educated youth entering the labor force in the coming decades.  An opportunity for the Arab World to re-emerge as the dynamic, innovative center of prosperity it once was – IF, and that is a big IF, this vast human resource is given the opportunity to reach its full potential.

So WHAT is standing in the way, WHY is unemployment so high and HOW can these both be overcome? These three questions form the basis for a new discussion series that we are launching today.  Over the coming weeks, we will present some of the analysis we have prepared on jobs in the Arab World. We will discuss some of the obstacles that need to be overcome and some of the technocratic solutions that we draw from this analysis.  But most importantly, this problem is too big for any one institution, government or individual to solve, so this is my challenge to you:  Let’s try ‘crowdsourcing’ the problem! 

WHAT do you think are the most important aspects of the jobs situation in the Arab world (is it unemployed youth, women, lack of jobs for the educated, regional inequalities????);

WHY is the situation so? (bad regulations, too little growth, wrong kind of growth, poor education, lack of safety nets????) and,

HOW can more good jobs be created for the many rather than the few?

If the Arab World continues along the same economic path excluding the many (largely younger and female) and benefitting the few (older and male) – the coming opportunity will be wasted.  With the Arab Spring and its call for a new social contract there is great hope but also even greater expectations – citizens are demanding more and better jobs and the politicians and academics are listening.  At the World Bank, I have heard this call from the senior civil servants and politicians I meet at official events, I heard it during a live web discussion with ordinary citizens, I have heard it from young people just asking for a chance, and older people worried about the next generation. 

Without more and better opportunities there is little hope of meeting the aspirations of the Arab Spring.  Without a job there is little dignity, little bread and little freedom – but most importantly, there is little hope.    

In December, 2012 we will launch a report on jobs in the Arab World together with the Arab Labor Organization, but we want to do more than simply present a report.  We would like to underwrite a debate, develop solutions jointly with experts, advocates and ordinary citizens, so we can present to policy makers a set of ‘crowdsourced’ recommendations as the basis for urgent and lasting action.  To stimulate the discussion, we will be posting a series of blogs over the next month that outline the Bank’s insights on specific issues related to the  what, why and how of jobs.  I hope you will then join me on September 17 for a live web-chat to discuss both our and your ideas on jobs, and to hammer out together a plan for tackling the problem. At the World Bank’s annual meetings later in the year, we will present the preliminary findings to the finance ministers and other high officials, and I will have the opportunity of communicating our ideas to them.

So here is the challenge: What do you want me to say when I meet ministers at the World Bank’s annual meetings on the WHAT, WHY and HOW of jobs in the Middle East and North Africa?

I look forward to discussing your answers on September 17th.

This blog is part of a weekly series that we hope will provide some food for thought on the critical questions outlined in the forthcoming MENA Flagship Report on Jobs. The common thread and objective of these blogs are to spur a conversation on “what to tell your Finance Minister.” This is in preparation for the World Bank Annual Meetings in October 2012, where the report's main messages and the results of the live chat will be presented to MENA policy makers. We want to know what YOU think is holding people back, and what can be done to create more and better jobs in MENA. Please send us your thoughts and join us for a live web chat on jobs on September 17.


Steen Jorgensen

Sector Director for Human Development

Amr Adam
August 22, 2012

Hi, i'm suggesting you allow small and medium loans with no interest, instead, you'd be part of the ownership of the projects, which would fit with the islamic finance.

August 17, 2012

Link between the universities in the MENA region and private sector to reassess the higher education system so as to create new educational disciplines required by the private sector.

Lower taxes on small and medium enterprises that employ young graduates.

Link between young entrepreneurs in the Western and MENA regions in terms of exchanging experience, market access and cooperation.

Aisha Osman
August 18, 2012

There are several issues in MENA region that should be solved to solve unemployment from its origin :
- changing idea of having everybody into universities
- having courses according to market needs
- studies sponsored by factories or companies , so they study exactly according to the need of the market need
- don't give them lots of unneeded studies , but rather short studies to start the work , earn & then continue while working on an ongoing professional development while they are seeing the real value of it

Reb Thomas
August 17, 2012

The focus needs to be on better developing knowledge-based economies in the region. The World Bank should help start a portal at KnowledgeEconomy.com/net/org etc (or KnowledgeEconomies.com/net/org etc if you prefer) that is developed into a key resource for further development in education, research, innovation and commercialization (E.r.i.c.).

bassem jmal
September 13, 2012

In order to create jobs, a country need to make a long term employment strategy, work on it decades to achieve its goal of job creation and why not full employment.
To create a job we need capitals, workforce but also Ideas and a good environment that allow the value creation. In the arab world and middle east, governments lack of long term strategy, and they seems to work on day to day basis, the rules of the game are not well defined and the law enforcement depend of who you are.
The system lack objectivity, transparency and the states in the middle east are weak, so weak that they are not able to impose a fair and efficient fiscal system that allow them to collect the fiscal potential resources of their economy and dispose the necessary first factor for the job creation (capital); (big black market economy).
Of course a good environment of resource allowance is important to manage that money well, without wasting it; a democratic government under election pressure would do that, but a non democratic one would do it if and only if he want to do it (china) otherwise he will manage that money randomly: distribution of the cake to the friends and their children in form of public wages for a job that do not create value... (that's why the percentage of the salaries in the budget are high; and the public sector is preferred in the Middle east country to the private one).
The mismanagement of small part of the real fiscal potential in those country reach the education, system the source of ideas and skill for the task force, in fact in the arab world and the middle east the education system is like "a place to be in" "to occupy you" it's used by the governments like a mom use a baby sitter, in the school, the future task force is controlled, not well educated, dependent, and the studies are studied for the parents and not for acquisition of science or for stimulating the brains to be creative and entrepreneur. the education systems is based on course dictation and exams are question on that courses, even in the universities, students are treated like a children, there is no place for creativity or access to the sources of science (books), no case studies, no workshop, no international exchange...) with this bad educational system the graduated lack knowledge and are not able to be creative to be entrepreneur, the workforce is unskilled, that's why the young found difficulties to work.
So with the lack of vision and long term strategy, of capitals, ideas, with a non skilled work force, an awful education system and government's failure to provide a fair system and a clear rules to be equitably applicable on all the players; arab and middle Easter's young will usually find difficulties to find a job. Please tell our finance minister to be courageous enough and responsible to do what he need to do !!