Is being employable enough to get a job in the Arab World? The double transition from education to work in MENA
The low quality and relevance of education and training systems in MENA have led them to be perceived, most notably by employers, more as barriers to employment, rather than a path to good jobs. In recent focus group discussions in Egypt, some employers even voiced the preference for hiring young, non-diploma holders who have not gone through the technical secondary system, which is perceived as an unreformed low-quality option that is visibly associated with academic failure.
Several years ago, when I first came into the region, my department produced a Private Sector Flagship report titled, “From Privilege to Competition: Unlocking Private-Led Growth in the Middle East and North Africa”. This report gradually became known simply as “From Privilege to Competition” and more recently truncated even further to “P2C”. When this report was first launched in Egypt, in the year before the Arab Spring first began to take hold, the region planned a large event in Cairo with Ministers and press. Interestingly, no ministers turned up to the launch event.
I-Gov has taken a leap. During May 2012, Tunisian citizens from around the country weighed in on how well they are being served by the public sector. And the government is listening. Under a new social accountability policy supported by the Tunisia Governance and Opportunity Development Policy Loan (DPL) in 2011, the office of the Prime Minister created the first citizen scorecard platform. The initial results were published in Arabic on the main page of the Prime Minister’s website. The initiative is called the Barometer of Public Services. It helps build social accountability and good governance in public services.
Is working a privilege in the Middle East & North Africa? Who is most affected by MENA’s Joblessness Trap?
Like many of my colleagues, I have now spent several years trying to understand the reality of labor markets in MENA, especially for young people. Looking back over the research involved to define labor market dynamics for the whole region, a focus group with young Moroccans about their work as informal street venders in Casablanca comes to mind. None of them considered what they did a “real job”. Their work was rarely rewarding, was risky, often persecuted by the police, and, more importantly from their standpoint, it did not provide them with the means to propose to a girl, let alone to start a family.
The Arab World faces a great opportunity with large numbers of educated youth entering the labor force in the coming decades. An opportunity for the Arab World to re-emerge as the dynamic, innovative center of prosperity it once was – IF, and that is a big IF, this vast human resource is given the opportunity to reach its full potential. So WHAT is standing in the way, WHY is unemployment so high and HOW can these both be overcome?
Last year, Mr. Berrada patented a new invention for solar-water heaters at the Moroccan Office of Property Rights (OMPIC). His idea is to improve the efficiency of solar-water heaters by introducing a heat-transport fluid system specially designed for buildings and communities. Mr. Berrada, a state engineer and a graduate of the Hassania School of Public Works, dreams of bringing his concept into commercial reality. But he struggles.
We often hear about the Middle East and North Africa’s centrality in global energy markets as it is home to more than 52 and 42 percent of global reserves of oil and gas respectively. The region is also responsible for more than 36 and 20 percent of global oil and gas production. However, MENA is also the world leader in other aspects of the energy markets, namely energy use and energy intensity (i.e. energy use per $1,000 of output). Between 1981 and 2009 these grew faster in MENA than any other region.
Yemen is at a critical stage in its transition. At the World Bank Group, we want to do everything we can to support this process. To that end, we are trying to figure out what types of engagement will provide the maximum benefit, which we will then organize into a two year plan called an Interim Strategy Note (ISN). This is where we need your help. One of the important lessons we learned from the ‘Arab Spring’ is to listen more carefully, to a wider range of voices - especially when we are developing new strategies.