Friday, May 15, 2009

The global downturn and labor market opportunities in Middle East countries

The Middle East Youth Initiative is a joint project of the Wolfensohn Center for Development at The Brookings Institution and the Dubai School of Government. It has just released its report, Missed by the Boom, Hurt by the Bust: Making Markets Work for Young People in the Middle East. Its key findings (quoting):
• Recent high growth in the Middle East did not sufficiently resolve the region’s education and employment problems. Countries are entering the global slowdown with large pre-existing hurdles, including high rates of youth unemployment and deteriorating job quality.

• The global economic slowdown is hitting the Middle East at a time when the youth share of the total population is at a historic high, with nearly 32 percent of the population between the ages of 15 and 29. This means that a large number of new job seekers will continue to exert pressure on the region’s labor markets for years to come.

• Policies that increase public sector employment and job protection while delaying progress toward greater global integration are likely to be counterproductive. The path to economic recovery will require cultivating a skilled workforce, expanding the role of the private sector, and reducing the appeal of government employment.

• The report presents ten policy recommendations. Countries in the Middle East committing to fiscal stimulus should prioritize job creation for young people. Governments should engage in an open and transparent dialogue on the economic crisis with citizens, the private sector, and civil society. Additional recommendations include reforming public sector hiring practices and raising the value of informal jobs – which are serving as a refuge for an increasing number of young people – through investing in skills development.
My emphasis.

See also, Stalled Youth Transitions in the Middle East: A Framework for Policy Reform. From the abstract:
The root cause of youth exclusion lies in the institutions that mediate transitions from school to work and family formation. These institutions provide the signals that tell young people what skills to learn, tell firms whom to hire and how much to pay, tell credit agencies to whom to lend, and tell families how to evaluate the potential of a young person as a future spouse or parent. In the region, many of these signals and incentives are skewed, leading to adverse consequences for young people, including a mismatch between those skills obtained in the education system and those demanded for jobs in the growing private sector.



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