Arab youth face high unemployment

On their international day, most unemployed in the Middle East are Arab youth. Ahmad Abdul-Rahman sheds light on recent figures from the ILO. 

Climate change, armed conflict and displacement are factors that clearly affect the economic performance of the economies in the Middle East. But so too does unemployment among Arab youth. 

On August 12, the world celebrated 1.2 billion young men and women between the ages of 15 and 24. It was the International Youth Day. It is this age group that is entrusted with the future of the planet. However, employment among this age group in the post-Corona era, the monkey pox era, Russia's war on Ukraine, economic turmoil, political crises, and social, educational and health dilemmas and climate change is high. It is no longer guaranteed that they can enter the workforce. To do so, the transition from education to the world of work is unlikely to be smooth. Securing a job for most youth will require economies in the world to perform better.


A troubled world

The world's labour market is troubled, especially among this age group. This is because this group is deeply affected by the myriad  of issues plaguing the world economy. The pandemic negatively affected youth employment opportunities and exacerbated the challenges facing them in the labour market. The number of unemployed youth this year is estimated to reach 73 million. No matter how bad, it is still better than last year, when the number of unemployed youth reached about 75 million. Nonetheless, 73 million remains higher than the unemployment rates for this group in the pre-pandemic years by about six million.

This assessment was made in a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) on International Youth Day. It is entitled "Global Employment Trends 2022: Investing in Transforming the Future of Youth." It deals with youth work, unemployment, how to to get out of the unemployment crisis, and the opportunities that might arise. The trends cannot be described as promising or positive. 

More difficult situation for young women

Following traditional patterns, young women are in a more difficult situation than their male peers. For them, the employment rate is lower, reaching 27.4 per cent in 2022, compared to 40.3 per cent for males. This gender gap, which has not narrowed over the past two decades, is the greatest in middle- and low-income countries.

Therefore, expectations are not high in middle and low-income countries in respect to improving employment rates and reducing unemployment among young people. This is unlike high-income countries, whose youth are expected to have the lower unemployment rates that prevailed in 2019 before the start of the pandemic.

The report says that Arab youth are the most affected by the economic stagnation that resulted from the Corona-virus pandemic. The effects of the pandemic were seen in the number of workplaces that closed their doors. Some were affected by the obstacles to global supply chains along with increases in energy and food prices, especially wheat. These prices were exacerbated by the situation in Ukraine, which led to rising inflation, to varying degrees, in all Arab countries.

Over the course of two years of the Corona-pandemic, large numbers of young people found themselves outside the labour market.  In Arab countries the report describes the situation as "fragile". It takes Lebanon as an example. In 2020, it imported 81 per cent of its wheat from Ukraine. Other countries in the region, such as Syria and Yemen, are also very dependent on Russia and Ukraine for wheat imports.

Climate, conflicts, and displacement

The report elaborates on the crises of Arab countries which has manifested itself in the lack of job opportunities for the region's youth.  Arab countries have the highest and fastest rate of unemployment among young people in the world in the age group from 15 to 24 years. This rate reached 25.9 per cent in 2021. Although the unemployment rate among Arab youth is expected to decrease by about one percent, the overall rate remains 10 per cent higher than the global average.

Young Arab women have the highest rate of unemployment in the world, which reached 42.5 per cent this year. This is twice the regional average for unemployment across all groups, and three times the global average.

Although there are clear differences between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the entire Middle East aims to achieve sustainable development goals, including youth unemployment.

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Sunday, 25 September 2022