WASHINGTON (AFP) – Joblessness in the Arab world is an “increasingly urgent” issue, the International Monetary Fund said Thursday, a week after an uprising overthrew Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
“We do see economic pressure building in the region,” said David Hawley, an IMF spokesman. “Addressing the question of high unemployment is a longstanding but increasingly urgent economic challenge.”
“While the region’s oil importing countries have only seen a relatively mild slowdown in growth last year, to the equivalent of about four and a half percent, this growth rate is below the level required to create sufficient jobs to absorb new entrants to the labor market and thus bring about a decline in chronically high unemployment in the region,” he said.
The comments came after a Tunisian revolt which ended the 23 year old rule of Ben Ali, who fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia last Friday.
Hawley said the economic impact of the revolt was being felt.
“It is too early for a firm assessment of the economic impact of the current unrest,” he told reporters.
“But it is clear that it has led to a decline in economic activity.”
He cited the country’s interior minister as saying the violence of the recent weeks may have resulted in a slowdown equivalent of 4.5 percent of GDP.
The IMF had long stressed the high level of Tunisian unemployment, 14 percent for the general population but double that for those under 25, as a major problem for the country.