Labor & Social Protection
During her recent visit to Cairo, the World Bank's Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region Inger Andersen reiterated the Bank's support for an inclusive economy in Egypt that enables all citizens to take part in shaping their future.
Egyptian writer and commentator Bassem Sabry talks to Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Director for Djibouti, Egypt and Yemen about the economic challenges facing Cairo.
Sabry: What do you think are the questions that are missing from the discussion on Egypt right now?
Schafer: I think the question is, what is the priority right now for Egypt? If we go back two and a half years, the revolution was basically the result of growing exclusion and inequality. And that is still, in my view, the top priority.
There are many people around the world eager to move to locations where employment opportunities exist in labor intensive services, such as agriculture or old age care. Encouraging this kind of mobility could potentially offset labor shortages in receiving countries while alleviating poverty for sending country populations. Sadly, this win-win outcome remains elusive, as willing and eager would-be migrants stay trapped in their own countries.
The socioeconomic challenges facing Algeria are many, the most urgent of which is without doubt youth unemployment. In a July 5 interview with the weekly, Jeune Afrique, Mr. Issad Rebrab, the CEO of Algeria’s leading private industrial group Cevital, ran through the raw facts: “Our unemployment rate is 10%, but youth unemployment is above 35%”. He added: “Algeria must move swiftly towards diversifying its economy and creating jobs.”
The numbers are staggering. Almost one third of the populations of Algeria and Morocco are under the age of 15, with Tunisia following close behind. This ‘youth bulge’ is placing immense pressure on the education systems of the Maghreb.
International labor markets are perhaps the last bastion of protectionism. We know that easing restrictions on the movement of people, especially the less skilled, can unleash huge welfare gains which by some estimates dwarf the gains from complete trade liberalization. And yet, progress on this front has been too slow.
Microfinance – defined as the access to and usage of quality financial services, including savings, credit, insurance and money transfer systems - is crucial for low-income households to manage cash flows to finance day-to-day living, manage risks, invest productively, and respond to financial shocks.
The low levels of financial inclusion in the Middle East and North Africa region, however, have left many with limited access to any sort of financial services. This is especially true for certain groups such as women and young people.
This week’s mass demonstrations in Egypt and assassination of an opposition leader in Tunisia -- not to mention the continuing conflict in Syria -- highlight the turmoil and uncertainty facing many countries in the Middle East and North Africa.To track the effects of these and other developments on the economy, the MENA Quarterly Economic Brief provides a real-time review, using high-frequency data, of five countries that are at risk of sluggish economic growth in 2013.
Peer learning has great potential as an effective tool for sharing knowledge and good practice. For it to work, the right environment is needed; one that is conducive to learning and knowledge-sharing. In a recent case in Georgia, however, it all came down to the right crowd, a great host and relevant experiences. Good food and nice weather may also have helped some.
From the exhilaration of popular revolution to the tragedy of ongoing conflict, the Middle East and North Africa region has occupied a prominent place in the headlines. Yet there is another, often silent, drama that is not receiving the attention it deserves. It is playing out in both rich and poor countries, albeit in different forms. A series of alarming statistics reveal an ongoing deterioration in the overall health of the people of the region.