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In the Mediterranean region there are about 140 million young (aged 15-29) women and men. That is almost 20 percent of the population. They account for a large reservoir of untapped human resources, with the world’s highest unemployment rate among youth and the lowest participation of females in the labour force (25 percent in the Southern Mediterranean – the lowest in the world).
Work in the private sector has been underdeveloped, whilst civil service – where positions are highly sought after because they provide access to status and stability – has been more attractive. Moreover, the current organisation of the production system between the Northern and Southern Mediterranean restricts the Southern economies to the low value-added end as well as short-term subcontracting arrangements, thus preventing reduction of the abnormally high levels of unemployment of skilled workers which fuels expatriation.
Therefore, fostering job creation and employability is necessary to achieve youth inclusion in the Mediterranean.
A solid investment climate and a dynamic private sector are prerequisites for a vibrant economy that would reduce the current pressure on the State to guarantee employment through unsustainable civil service expansion. In order to be competitive and allow to exit a rentier model, jobs in the private sector should bring competitive salaries and social security. Labour market regulations that favour the hiring of youth and efficient social insurance systems are thus key elements for growth and welfare.
Moreover, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region countries need to gradually move to knowledge-based economies, as knowledge is recognised as a key driver for productivity and economic growth.
Young people entering the labour market need to acquire the range of skills that is required by the labour market and continuously adapt these skills. Despite the success of the MENA countries in ensuring access to education and infrastructures, curricula and learning methods do not impart sufficient skills that match labour market needs, which constitute necessary conditions for inclusion, self‐fulfilment and social mobility. A new vision of education is
critical for the MENA region – one that promotes critical thinking, creativity and innovation that would allow the region to achieve inclusive growth, stability, and global competitiveness.
This two-day conference aim, was to leverage existing research and analytical tools/frameworks to identify the main binding constraints afflicting youth employment in the MENA region, and to explore the role of business climate, labour and education policies in mitigating those challenges.
The conference bridged theory with practical applications by focusing on international good practices related to the design and implementation features of policies that can help youth connect to jobs, start a new business, or manage periods of inactivity or unemployment.
Promoting job creation for youth requires the involvement of a myriad of government and non-government actors across different sectors. As such, the conference targeted both policy makers and technical experts from different MENA governments and agencies, international organisations, private sector and civil society.
The conference was interactive and encouraged active participation and discussion among participants. As a result the conference has led to the identification of concrete policy and operational recommendations to tackle some of the region’s most pressing job challenges for youth.
 Jobs for Shared Prosperity: Time for Action in the Middle East and North Africa’, World Bank, 2013.
Young Mediterranean Voices is co-funded by the European Union