Jobless youth tally to soar in Middle East

The Middle East is forecast to overtake North Africa in 2017 as the region with the highest youth jobless rate in the world.
Tunisian youths sit on the steps of a theatre as they pass time while awaiting employment opportunities. Fethi Belaid / AFP
Tunisian youths sit on the steps of a theatre as they pass time while awaiting employment opportunities. Fethi Belaid / AFP

Jobless youth numbers in the Middle East are expected to soar to more than 28 per cent in the next five years, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) warns.

Youth unemployment rates are forecast to rise from 26.4 per cent this year to 28.4 per cent in 2017, it said in a paper released yesterday.

The increase will mean the Middle East overtakes North Africa as the region with the highest youth unemployment rate anywhere in the world. Youth unemployment in North Africa will fall from 27.5 per cent this year to 26.7 per cent in 2017, the data showed.

Unhappiness with bleak job prospects were among the many seeds of protests in parts of the Arab world since last year, leading to the overthrow of several leaders, among them Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Qaddafi.

Globally, the ILO warned jobless rates among young people would get even worse as the spillover of the euro crisis spread from advanced to emerging economies. The global youth unemployment rate will reach 12.9 per cent in 2017, up 0.2 percentage points from this year. "Ironically, only in developed economies are youth unemployment rates expected to fall in the coming years but this follows the largest increase in youth unemployment among all regions since the start of the crisis," said Ekkehard Ernst, the lead author of the paper and the chief of the ILO's employment trends unit.

Unemployment in the developed world has ballooned in the past few years as a result of the euro-zone debt crisis and tepid growth in the United States.

Youth unemployment rates in developed economies will drop from 17.5 per cent this year to 15.6 per cent in 2017, the ILO said. But the level is still far higher than the rate of 12.5 per cent in 2007, before the global downturn.

As with the Middle East, youth joblessness is also forecast to rise in many other developing economies. East Asia was expected to have an unemployment level among young people of 10.4 per cent in 2017, up from 9.5 per cent this year. Unemployment will reach 9.8 per cent in 2017 in south Asia, compared with 9.6 per cent this year. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the figure is forecast to edge up to 14.7 per cent from 14.6 per cent this year.

Declining exports to advanced economies is cited as one cause of the expected unemployment surge in the developing world.

The report said much of the decline in the jobless rate in developed economies was not due to improvements in the labour market. Instead, the rate will be moderated by more young people dropping out of the labour market altogether due to discouragement at their future prospects.

Published: September 6, 2012 04:00 AM


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