ABU DHABI // The risk of extremist thought spreading is increased by youth unemployment, experts said at the Youth and Development conference in the capital on Tuesday.
“The current state of affairs in the Arab world [makes it] a fertile ground for extremist ideologies to take root,” said Ibrahim Ahli, the secretary general of the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare.
Prof Mohamed Al Baili, the deputy vice chancellor for academic affairs at UAE University in Al Ain, said that “the number of unemployed in the Arab world could reach 80 million by the year 2025”.
The challenges and risks of such high unemployment numbers were the focus of the panellists on the first day of the two-day conference at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).
There are 25 million unemployed and 125 million employed people in the Arab world, Prof Al Baili said.
“The world unemployment average is 12 per cent, but in the Arab world it’s twice that – it’s 28 per cent. Forty per cent of those who are educated in the Arab world are unemployed,” the professor said.
This socio-economic crisis cast a shadow over development plans, he said, and that the dismal figures could be attributed to the state of the global economy, overpopulation and a lack of coordination between education institutions and labour-market needs.
Dr Jamal Al Suwaidi, director general of ECSSR, said: “Today, the most pressing issue that afflicts our region involves the political-religious groups that attempt to lure the youth into their extremist ideologies.
“These manipulative groups target the youth by taking -advantage of their vulnerabilities and of the negative factors that affect them, which include the problem of identity, unemployment and, among others, the influx of negative foreign values.”
Dr Al Suwaidi said that the UAE was a model to the region in youth empowerment, noting the appointment of 22-year-old Shamma Al Mazrui as Minister of State for Youth Affairs.
On Tuesday, Ms Al Mazrui, who was appointed in a Cabinet reshuffle last month, visited the Khawla bint Al Azwar Military School, where female conscripts were enrolling.
There she praised young people for taking on national service with pride.
She said: “Joining the military service is an honour, to safeguard the nation and its people.”
Ms Al Mazrui is a key speaker at the conference on Wednesday.