Labor & Social Protection
Daunting challenges lie before the Arab-speaking workforce today. Forty million jobs must be created in the next decade to employ the region, home to the highest rate of youth unemployment – not to mention that many countries are still undergoing a period of political transition. The fundamental question about job creation now is where these countries should be headed and how they are getting there.
The Middle East and North Africa region still lags behind other comparable countries in gender equality. Women’s access to opportunities continues to be restricted by socio-structural obstacles, inflexible mentalities and deep-rooted traditions. The Arab Spring gave women hope that empowerment and greater participation in decision-making were possible, but future progress is threatened.
Yemeni women are some of the fiercest women I have ever met. Through conflicts and famine, many have had to struggle for the survival of their families. The abject poverty afflicts Yemeni women in particularly harsh ways, yet they carry on and persevere. Still, their pride in their culture and love for their beautiful country always shines through.
It was a cold and rainy afternoon in Tunisia in February of 2011. My colleagues and I were on mission, driving from the Ministry of Employment to our next meeting. We got stuck! The street was blocked with hundreds of youth chanting “3amal” (“work” in Arabic). They were outside one of the biggest public employment offices in Tunis demanding work, often violently.
The World Bank’s education strategy 2020 shifts the focus from adult to early education, by promoting investments aimed at ensuring all children have equal access to quality learning. Focusing on early childhood education is a smart investment that not only achieves better learning but also better life outcomes and greater social inclusion.
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity… poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Many years later these words by Nelson Mandela still resonate with me in my work on social protection of the poor in the Arab world, where a growing middle class exists alongside severe poverty.
After decades of suppressed voice, an inability to say what one thought, to protest, to offer a contrary point of view or dissent – the Arab world is at last unshackled to say exactly what it wants and wherever it wants. Nowhere is this more true than on the streets of the Arab capitals where an explosion of graffiti is voicing the views of the people in both words and pictures.
The question of nepotism is in the minds of many people in the Arab world. Some are hopeful that change can be brought by the Arab Spring, but others are doubtful. In a series of blogs, I plan to look into some of the ways nepotism, favoritism and other ills have become ingrained in Arab society.
Twice a year, we put together an economic outlook for Middle East and North Africa as part of the economic analysis we do at the World Bank. Over the last two years, a series of political and financial shocks have made the regional economic trends and turning points that we are looking for in these reports difficult to identify.
While there have been positive development for beneficiaries of the pension system in Iraq, there are still challenges to improve services in Baghdad and across Iraq. It requires reforming the system to be responsive to the current and future needs of Iraq. Pensions systems are one of the most difficult areas in any country to reform and always involve a long term process fraught with political and technical challenges.