In a report last year, the Council of Arab Economic Unity, an organization affiliated with the Arab League, predicted that the rate of unemployment in the Arab World is one of the highest worldwide, between 15% and 20%, increasing every year by 3%. At this rate, by 2010, nearly 25 million in the region will be without a job.
It is important to remember that no Arab country is shielded from economic woes, including the wealthy countries of the Arabian Gulf . The last report from the Arab Labor Organization estimated that the rate of unemployment is 15% in Saudi Arabia ,17% in Oman and 12% in Qatar .
It becomes easier to account for these frightful numbers once one examines the lack of economic planning, the absence of investments in new fields, the incompatibility between university graduates and the job market, and finally, the cultural attitude that stipulates low paid menial jobs as shameful.
What about the role of Arab youths? Two years ago, a study revealed that young men and women across the region spend as little as 3% of their income on improving their skills, compared to 35% in Japan , 45% in Europe ,and an amazing 50% in the USA .
If initial figures put the blame squarely on the governments’ shoulders, the study on self-improvement indicate young people in the Arab World are also responsible. Unfortunately, many young men and women lack ambition. The majority dream of a good monthly income, convenient work hours, and a respectable social position.
Let us consider the case of Wassini Atifi, a Moroccan 25 year old high school graduate. An ambitious young man, Atifi wasn’t satisfied with manual labor jobs. After three years of hard work, he saved enough money to travel to the United States and enroll in English language classes. On his return, his improved language skills meant he found employment in a corporation, for much higher pay. After saving and attending a hotel management course in the Netherlands, Atifi came back to Morocco and was appointed public relations manager at a prestigious hotel. He started his professional life with a meager salary of $60 US which subsequently increased more than twenty fold, to reach a total of $1500 US. His is a lesson for other young men and women to be ambitious and strive for more. Limited opportunities should not necessarily mean limited dreams.
An easy solution is to gather with friends, lamenting their fate and cursing their inability to find suitable jobs. Another is to work hard to obtain the skills needed for progress in the workplace. Those who choose the first option become parasites and depend on their families to sustain them. The second course will boost the youths’ self-confidence and assist their development, thereby increasing their chance of finding jobs.
Governments in the region who do not pay any attention to their population’s needs and desires will, at best, force their youth to emigrate. In the worst case scenario, young men and women, driven by a lack of opportunities and jobs, will be driven to despair and become psychiatric patients, drug addicts, and criminals, devoid of any loyalty to their countries.