The employment outlook for young people in the Arab world is not improving. If anything, the picture is getting darker. The wave of popular discontent that has seen off a number of regimes in North Africa and the Middle East has paradoxically aggravated the problem of unemployment, itself one of the sparks that ignited the wve of uprisings.
Figures in the latest report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) show that the rate of unemployment among young people in the region rose by more than 4 percentage points, from 23.6% to 27.9% in North Africa, and from 21.1% to 26.5% in the Middle East.
The figures make the two regions the worst performers in the world in terms of youth employment, according to the report on international employment trends, which monitors the market for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. The global rate of youth unemployment, the ILO estimates, is half the figure, at 12.7%. The social impact of the figures released by the ILO had in some ways already been expressed by a poll on priorities for young people presented at the beginning of the month by the public relations agency ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller, which was conducted across 12 Arab countries in the Gulf, the Middle East and North Africa. Freedom and democracy, it emerged, have given way to more concrete aspirations, with employment and housing perhaps more urgent.
In the wake of the Arab Spring, the ILO report says, "economic growth has slowed while youth unemployment has increased dramatically". The already precarious economies in certain countries have been further damaged by the series of disorders, strikes, temporary and permanent closures of shops and businesses, to say nothing of the depression suffered by the tourism sector, a pillar of the economy for countries like Egypt.
Financial analysts have indicated tandem policies between respective governments and the private sector as solutions with which to create a basin of opportunities that can absorb the quarter of young people currently excluded from the job market in the Arab world.
A further poll by Gallup shows that, if they had the choice, the young unemployed would opt for jobs in the public rather than the private sector. (ANSAmed).