x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Middle East unemployment set to rise, says labour body

More than a quarter of the region's youths are out of work and close to 20 per cent of women are unemployed - and the problem is set to get even worse, warns the International Labour Organization.

Unhappiness with bleak job prospects was among the many seeds of protests in parts of the Arab world. Above, young unemployed men in Cairo. David Degner for The National
Unhappiness with bleak job prospects was among the many seeds of protests in parts of the Arab world. Above, young unemployed men in Cairo. David Degner for The National

Unemployment in the Middle East, already twice the rate of the global average, is set to rise further in the coming years, the International Labour Organization warned in a report yesterday.

Overall, unemployment in the region in all age groups was 11.3 per cent last year and was expected to rise slightly this year, according to the ILO’s Global Employment Trends report.

The report showed that youth and women continue to bear the brunt of joblessness.

A total of 28.1 per cent of youths were out of work last year. Female unemployment was 19.3 per cent, more than twice the rate for men.

The figures are a heavy reminder of the challenges still facing many governments more than two years on from the start of instability in parts of the region. Unhappiness with bleak job prospects was among the many seeds of protests in parts of the Arab world, leading to the overthrow of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

But joblessness has risen in many countries as instability has taken a toll on economies.

The ILO warned the outlook for the region’s jobs market remained bleak because of slowing growth.

“On the back of this deceleration of growth in most of the region, unemployment is set to rise again,” the ILO wrote in the report. “Following a gradual but steady decline over most of the 2000s unemployment rates are expected to rise over the coming years.”

Some of the data in the region was especially alarming. More than half of youths under the age of 20 were without work in some countries, while joblessness among women in some countries was 70 per cent.

Iran, Yemen, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories were highlighted as having the highest unemployment.

More than 35 per cent of youths in Iraq were out of work and about a third in the Palestinian Territories, where total unemployment was more than 20 per cent.

Joblessness was generally lower in the GCC, although still on the high side compared with global standards. Female and youth unemployment in the UAE were both more than 10 per cent, while total joblessness was less than 5 per cent.

The ILO credited GCC governments’ public employment efforts as helping to curtail unemployment. Still, about 30 per cent of youths in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were jobless, the highest rate in the GCC.

The youth unemployment rate in the Middle East was more than four times that for adults, the largest youth-to-adult unemployment ratio in the world, it said.


tarnold@thenational.ae