ILO warns of worsening Arab youth unemployment ‘crisis’

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Jobless graduates demand jobs in Cairo, Egypt and denounce government's inability to provide employment opportunities to the country's youth. Photo - Hussein Malla/AP

More than a quarter of young people in the Middle East and North Africa region are unemployed, according to a new report published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The findings said many skilled young people are being forced into part-time and unskilled work, further aggravating the crisis.

The ILO research titled ‘Global Employment Trends For Youth’ showed that the rate of joblessness among those aged between 15 and 24 years old hit 26.5% in the Middle East by end of 2011 and 27.9% in North Africa.

“North Africa and the Middle east stand out in terms of their overall unemployment problem, and these are the only two regions where the unemployment rate exceeded 10% in 2011 for the population aged 15 and above,” the report noted. It went on to say that the ratios of youth-to-adult un-employment rates are exceptionally high, at 4.0% in the Middle east and at 3.9% in North Africa.

“Youth unemployment rates have been at very high levels for decades in these regions. North Africa was relatively resilient to the global economic crisis but following the Arab Spring economic growth decreased and the youth unemployment rate increased sharply by 4.9 percentage points in 2011,” the International Labour Organisation report said.

It added that the Middle East is one of the two regions in which youth unemployment rate decreased from 2008 to 2009 but since 2009 the rate has increased. In 2011, the youth unemployment rate stood at 26.5% in the Middle East and at 27.9% in North Africa.

On a global basis, 12.6 percent of youths were unemployed at the end of last year, the report said.

The report noted that the jobs crisis further threatens the well-being of households and young workers through rising levels of social discontent and instability.

“The regions under greatest threat include the Middle east and North Africa, parts of asia and the group of developed countries,” the report revealed while adding that one of the most obvious manifestations of the findings is the increasing number of street demonstrations and protests observed worldwide since 2010, which have been closely linked to the Arab Spring and European sovereign debt crises.

The ILO report recommended governments to offer tax breaks and other incentives to businesses hiring young people and offering more entrepreneurship programmes to help kick-start careers.

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