Education for Employment: Realizing Arab Youth Potential


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The headlines are sobering:
• The Arab World has 25% youth unemployment – the highest in the world – and female youth unemployment is even higher reaching over 30%
• The economic loss of youth unemployment costs US$40 to $50 billion annually – equivalent to the GDP of countries like Tunisia or Lebanon
• One third of the population in the region is below the age of 15 – a further third is aged 15 to 29.
• Two thirds of young people surveyed believe they do not have the skills required to get a good job

It is widely held that the revolutions taking place across the Middle East have been fuelled by a generation of youth who are over-educated or poorly-educated and unemployed.  Education for Employment (e4e) is an initiative that seeks to ‘realize Arab youth potential’ by providing education opportunities that focus on employability. The World Bank Group's International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Islamic Development Bank commissioned research for 22 countries across the Arab World with ‘deep dive’ research undertaken in 9 countries.  The report found that demand for e4e solutions is substantial and yet supply is nascent.  It also identified that critical enablers are missing, such as quality and standard setting, funding mechanisms, internship opportunities and information for young people on the value of different types of education.

The report’s focus is on the potential role for the private sector to respond – but the ‘call to action’ identifies critical roles for a range of stakeholders including government, civil society, youth, public and private sector education institutions and private employers.  Queen Rania Al Abdula of Jordan, e4e’s Honorary Patron said in her opening remarks during the launch event that “e4e urges us to up our game and work together. Governments must create an enabling environment for the private sector. The private sector must bridge gaps between schools and job markets. Schools must increase the quality of education they provide. Civil society institutions must expand training opportunities.”  The report calls for ‘All Hands on Deck’ – for all the key stakeholders to act decisively, to act jointly and to act now.  The future of the region depends on it. 

Help contribute to e4e’s success – share your experience:
• Do you know of existing initiatives that address e4e issues that would benefit from support and could be scaled up to meet the needs of more youth?    
• Do you have examples of good practice in establishing regional standards or professional associations?
• What lessons can we learn from previous initiatives which will help ensure success for e4e?
• Join the discussions on Facebook and Twitter and visit our website,


Svava Bjarnason

Senior Education Specialist, IFC

Join the Conversation

Offei Okoffo Manteaw
May 17, 2011

The whole idea of education for employment needs to be reconsidered. Education, and I mean quality education, is bigger than any narrow economic rationality and should not just be seen as educating people solely for the sake of employment. We can talk about education making learners employable by providing them with specific skills and knowledge; however, education must focus broadly on the whole person within a wider spectrum of society, ecology, culture, morality, economics etc. It must aim at enhancing the capability of learners to fit in well in every situation including work.

It is just fine to talk broadly about education that prepares people for the world of work. However, this should not put narrow economic and neoliberal imperatives ahead of social, cultural, moral, and ecological considerations, which also make people function effectively in the work place as well as other places. Frankly, it will not matter how much we focus on education for work, if we do not widen the focus of education to prepare the human person for life, education for employment will not only fail the learners, it will also fail the employer, communities, society and the nation.

In a sense, education should not be about employment; it should be about quality learning and training which in itself will make people fit for employment. The narrative of education for employment fits into the selfish and bottom-line agenda of the corporate world, which, for the most part ignores community, moral and ecological considerations. While we call for the private sector to help in education through the CSR activities, we must also ask about what kinds of education they value and what is in that for the broader society. If we focus narrowly on education for employment, the real potential of young people will never be realized.

Ashraf Shenouda
May 17, 2011

I am a co-founder of an NGO called NEDA which started working on that objective/mission since 2006. Its main target the people in poorer areas and one of its objectives was to ensure the sustainability of the project in the different served areas.

We would like to contribute, share our learnings and more develop jointly your mission.

Kindly advise on how we can proceed.


gitanjali karki
May 23, 2011

the call for change by the youth has rached un imaginable limits, it has a multiplier effect in their part of the world........but this powerful youth potential has to be quickly channelized before they are snapped back to reality and find themmselves in a hopeless education and technology can play a major role......what the youth need now is to unite, have pride in there diverse culture, draw strenght from their ancient civilization and believe that "unity in diversity" will see them through difficult times..........they need to develop their tradational trades as well as e commerce, they should make culture a major part of tourism,they need to connect with the 'rest' of the world and dispense all misunterstandings about their culture, internal trade, communication n roads n railways have to be developed as well as technical short term skills have to be imparted.............what we r seeing is similar to india in pre independence time, but what has seen india through all this is strong tradational trades and unity in it is well said " history repeats itself"...........may god give them hope n strength to pass thru tese incredibly difficult times....!!!