More than half of Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa do not work, according to the latest employment analysis by renowned research group Gallup.
The rate – 56 percent – is the highest of any region in the world. It excludes non-Arab expatriates.
Much of the non-workforce is made up of women and young people who choose not to work, according to Gallup.
“Many people in the region, especially women, voluntarily choose not to work, reducing the number of people who are even interested in full-time employment,” the report said.
“Young people in MENA also tend to be more likely to be out of the workforce than their counterparts in other regions, underscoring the challenges facing youth in the MENA region.”
Calculating those who do want to work, MENA also had the highest unemployment rate – excluding non-Arab expats - of all regions in 2012, at 19 percent, followed by sub-Saharan Africa (15 percent).
A further 37 percent were employed but wanted more hours.
It is estimated MENA will need to create 100m jobs in the next five years to maintain the present unemployment level. By comparison, 5m jobs were created in the past 25 years.
The high unemployment and non-working culture contributed to MENA recording a pay to population rate of only 18 percent, the second lowest in the world behind sub-Saharan Africa.
The rate is based on the estimated percentage of the entire adult population aged 15 and older who are employed full-time for an employer for at least 30 hours per week.
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