MENA's unemployment threatens to balloon

Published March 27th, 2012 - 12:26 GMT
More than twice as many women as men were unemployed in the Middle East last year
More than twice as many women as men were unemployed in the Middle East last year

Unemployment should rise in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) this year, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). The jobless rate is likely to reach about 12 percent in the Middle East and close to 15 percent in North Africa, the ILO says. The MENA region is the only one in the world in which the aggregate unemployment rate is estimated to exceed 10 percent, experts said.

"If the economic recovery of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia continues at the slow pace observed in 2011, this rate may well increase further," the ILO said in its Global Employment Trends 2012 report.

The Arab Spring has aggravated an unemployment challenge already decades in the making. High rates of population growth mean labour-force growth in North Africa is the third-highest in the world. The labour force was 72.4 million last year, up from 43.5 million 20 years ago.

Young people also continue to bear the heaviest impact. More than one in four youths in the labour force are out of work, a rate above the global average.

The outlook for female employment in the region is particularly grim. More than twice as many women as men were unemployed in the Middle East last year. In Algeria, only 8.9 percent of women had jobs in 2010, according to the ILO.

Even for some of those with jobs, prospects are not bright. In North Africa, the number of working poor as a share of the total population rose to more than 35 percent last year, the ILO estimates. It classifies working poor as those on less than US$2 (Dh7.43) per day.

 Tom Arnold


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