Published on Arab Voices

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

          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.

ImageThe 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

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