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.
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.
The IMF says the best way it can help is to help governments in the region devise policies for macroeconomic stability and strong, sustainable growth that is essential to creating jobs.
But it also reckons that it need to talk to the people it is worried about — the region’s youth. So it has begun a series of roundtable meetings with what it sees as the next generation of leaders from the region’s most prestigious universities.