MacroScope

The promise of middle age

The wave of popular discontent now sweeping the Middle East and North Africa has been driven by the region’s youth, frustrated by chronic umemployment and enraged by widespread corruption.

In a special report entitled ‘Youth bulges and equities’, Deutsche Bank argues that the proportion of angry young men to the general population is not only a gauge of socio-political stability but also a key indicator of market performance.

The ‘youth bulge’ — the ratio of males between 15-29 versus those aged 30-59 – came in at an average of 106 percent in the 251 conflicts seen around the world between 1950 and 2006. Two-thirds of countries that suffered social upheaval had a young-to-old men ratio of above 100 percent compared to the current 45-55 percent average seen in developed countries.

“The history of war is the history of young men in conflict. Over history, a number of revolutions and wars have been associated with rising youth bulges…the civil war in medieval Portugal, the Spanish Conquistadors in Latin America were mainly second and third sons…and the French Revolution in 1789. Student uprisings in the late 1960s have also been linked with the youth bulge,” Deutsche said.

This demographic factor has “predictive power” in projecting equity market returns.

Social media for the Arab jobless

In the realm of  long-term economic things to worry about, there is not much that can rival youth unemployment in the greater Middle East and North Africa. Some years ago, for example, the World Bank  estimated that the region’s population rise was such that jobs needed to grow by some 3.5 percent  per year if unemployment along the lines of one-in-four was to be avoided over the next couple of decades. There has been nothing of great note to change this forecast.

The International Monetary Fund has just weighed into the issue with a post on the subject and some startling figures on the depth of the problem. As author Masood Ahmed writes:

Simply put, the region is facing unparalleled demographic pressures. Population growth over the past two generations has been among the fastest in the world: the region’s work force is projected to reach 185 million in 2020, 80 percent higher than in 2000. And the region is one of the most youthful in the world—with about 60 percent of the population less than 25 years old.