ILO report: Arab youth face bleak job market

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GENEVA – The International Labor Organization (ILO) recently released a report painting a concerning picture of job prospects for youth in the Arab world. While many pursue high quality of education, they often face lower-skilled jobs, informal work, and high unemployment.اضافة اعلان

According to the survey, these professions are often associated with lower skill levels and are more vulnerable to informal employment, resulting in lower earnings and less acceptable working circumstances, Al-Ghad reported.

Interestingly, in Jordan and Lebanon, two countries with high-quality education systems, professionals, technicians, and assistant professionals are among the most popular jobs for young people. However, this group does not rank among the top three occupations in other countries. Overall, Arab youth are more likely to labor in the informal economy than their adult counterparts. According to the survey, informal work impacts eight out of ten young workers aged 15 to 24 and more than six out of ten young people aged 25 to 29.

Individuals' engagement in informal employment tends to decline as they age due in part to accumulated skills and experience. Nonetheless, more than half of the adult population remains locked in the informal sector, demonstrating the difficulties of migrating out of it, as well as the region's overall scarcity of formal jobs.

Historically, Arab youth have found jobs in the public sector. However, due to a lack of suitable private-sector jobs, young people have been forced to pursue non-traditional employment opportunities, such as the Internet economy and freelance labor. While online platforms bring new career prospects, questions remain about job quality and the level of safety provided.

In terms of youth labor underutilization, the research states that Arab kids are still disproportionately affected by job problems and labor market inequities. They have lower employment-to-population ratios, lower labor force participation, and higher unemployment. Last year, fewer than 20 percent of young people worked, compared to 53.5 percent of adults. Similarly, youth participation in the labor force was only 26.6 percent, less than half that of adults.

These discrepancies can be attributed partly to a greater number of young people pursuing an education. Other causes include their high expectations, companies' unwillingness to hire and train them, a mismatch between graduates' abilities and employer wants, and a general scarcity of acceptable positions available to new entrants into the labor market. Furthermore, juvenile unemployment rates remain a source of concern, hitting 27.7 percent last year—four times the adult jobless rate.

While considerable progress has been made, overcoming these difficulties will necessitate sustained efforts to close the gap and establish more inclusive and sustainable job opportunities for Arab youth.

While a higher proportion of young individuals pursuing school accounts for some of these discrepancies, other factors also play a role. These include rising youth expectations, employers' unwillingness to hire and train them, a mismatch between graduates' abilities and employer wants, and a general lack of acceptable and suitable positions available to new entrants into the labor market.

In addition to reduced employment-to-population ratios and labor force participation rates, youth unemployment rates are a source of concern. Last year, the Arab region's youth unemployment rate was 27.7 percent, four times the adult jobless rate.

A closer investigation exposes differences between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and non-GCC countries. Non-GCC countries have much higher youth unemployment rates. For example, Lebanon attained a high of 47.8 percent in 2022, Syria 45.9 percent in 2021, and Jordan 42 percent in 2022.

These data highlight the enormous hurdles that young job searchers face in these countries. Interestingly, while the GCC countries have lower youth unemployment rates, they are not negligible. For example, Saudi Arabia had a youth unemployment rate of 15.9 percent in 2022, whereas Kuwait had 15.4 percent in 2016/2017. Youth in the region confront more challenging conditions than their adult counterparts.

In Jordan, young women's marital status substantially impacts their educational and training options. According to the research, 92.7 percent of married women are unemployed, vs 29.7 percent of unmarried women.

Furthermore, of the 11 million Arab youth enrolled in school and training last year, more than two-thirds were young women who faced a double burden due to their gender. Discriminatory workplace practices, unsupportive company environments, and a lack of gender-sensitive policies and initiatives all lead to limited labor market participation.

Furthermore, traditional gender norms and societal expectations place a significant weight on women to perform home chores and give care. This may impede their capacity to pursue educational and professional possibilities.

Against this backdrop, the ILO analysis demonstrates that high unemployment rates have the potential to foment social discontent and political instability if young people are out of work for extended periods.

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