London, Asharq Al-Awsat—More than half the working-age population of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is neither employed nor in education, a World Bank report has revealed.
The latest World Bank report, titled “Jobs for Shared Prosperity: Time for action in MENA” looked at the causes for unemployment in the Arab world and put forward a number of proposals to reduce it.
The report revealed that MENA’s unemployment rate of 10 percent (2007) remains the highest in the world. In addition to this, information sector employment forms 67 percent of all employment, compared to 61 percent in Latin America and just 40 percent in Europe and Central Asia.
As for female employment in MENA, the report acknowledged “that while women have made great strides in education, often now outnumbering men at the tertiary level . . . their accomplishments have not translated into employment gains.”
The report indicated that on average women in MENA make up just 25 percent of the overall labor force, which is one of the lowest splits in the world.
The World Bank report added: “Sadly, MENA holds two world records: Three out of every four working-age women in MENA are outside the labor force, and one quarter of the youth population is looking for work but cannot find it.”
The report identified three “areas of action” to solve MENA’s economic problems, namely improving the business climate for the private sector, educational reform, and labor reform.
The report argued that “there needs to be a better business climate for the private sector to create the good jobs of the future,” adding that “lowering the barriers to both entry and exit of firms would create a dynamic private sector, which encourages investment and innovation, and ultimately increases the demand of labor.”
In addition to this, it called for education reform to ensure that “young people are equipped with the skills required for productive jobs in a vibrant private sector.”
The report also criticized the “social protection policies in the region [which] keep a few workers, mainly older and male, well protected, while the majority find themselves without any protection,” calling for “protecting incomes for all, so that people can change employment in search of more productive jobs without risking their livelihoods.”
Vice President of the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) section, Inger Andersen, stressed that “the call for economic and social justice is intimately related to the need for more equal access to economic opportunities, jobs, and more effective safety nets.”
Andersen added, “By seizing this historical moment and fundamentally changing the rules of the game, the region can lay the foundations for inclusive growth, and provide the poor with the means to climb out of poverty.”
The World Bank report revealed a number of troubling figures, including that 52 percent of MENA’s working age population is unemployed or inactive, while one out of four 14-25 year olds is unemployed, which represents the highest youth unemployment in the world.