The Syrian crisis has eclipsed what was perhaps the key trigger of the Arab Spring, namely disgruntled youth without sustainable employment prospects.
It might sound out of place to write about employment in Syria at a time when civilians are being killed but employment will be one of the most challenging issues facing the Syrian government when fighting ends and the dust settles.
The conflict in Syria has dragged on beyond other Arab Spring uprisings. Unlike in Egypt, for example, the longevity of the conflict has led to a collapse of the job market.
The employment market in Syria will have to be almost entirely rebuilt. A new jobs scene is needed that offers Syria's youth the opportunity to prosper. Without this, one of the root causes of the conflict will continue to threaten long-term stability.
Today, figures on unemployment are meaningless. Yet, in March, when such data may have meant something, unemployment was estimated at more than 35 per cent by the regime. Syria's employment landscape depends on a strong and large public sector. Years of socialist government has led to a preference by Syrian youth for public sector employment, as confirmed by research done for the American University of Beirut several years ago. There is a positive correlation between public sector employment and levels of education.
Pre-conflict research showed Syrian youths attended university to increase their prospects for a government job. The preference for working in the public sector is also linked to the need for private sector reforms and regulations.
Syrians also feel it is socially more acceptable to work for the government or a large organisation, rather than a small one.
Small and medium-sized enterprises are mostly family owned and run and are not perceived as a preferred employment option.
A post-crisis Syrian government, therefore, faces the enormous challenge of having to provide employment for millions of unemployed Syrians. During the past 18 months, despite the current crisis, more than 500,000 Syrians have entered the job market. They are largely unemployed.
Even before the crisis, the resources of the Syrian state were simply insufficient to provide enough jobs. If the crisis ended today, the majority of Syrians would be out of work and the state would still be unable to provide jobs for them. The drop in the value of the Syrian lira has added further pressure.
A post-conflict Syrian government will not be able to tackle the problem of unemployment on its own. The country will be in dire need of foreign support. The rebuilding work that needs to follow the end of fighting will provide sufficient employment for some segments of the population but enormous spending, well into the tens of billions of dollars, will be needed and most of this will have to come from foreign sources.
A post-conflict government will not only face financial constraints to re-employ all the pre-crisis public sector employees, it also faces the challenge of finding jobs for new entrants to the job market.
Almost two years of highly disrupted education will also manifest as less qualified youths attempt to enter the job market.
Syria will face a near impossible task when the crisis ends. The Syrian economy will have to be rebuilt almost from scratch. Before the crisis, the public sector employed about a quarter of the workers. While this figure is not excessive by regional or developing-world standards, it should shrink.
The obstacles to do so may disappear when the conflict ends, as foreign investment and funds pour in to rebuild after the mass destruction. But both Syrians and foreign investors will need to recognise need and opportunity arise not just from the country's physical reconstruction but also from reconstructing its economy.
As soon as the conflict ends, Syria can offer a highly attractive investment destination but the attractiveness will be largely dependent on how the Syrian economy is rebuilt.
Ghanem Nuseibeh is the founder of Cornerstone Global Associates and a senior visiting fellow at King's College London.