Al-Ahram Weekly Online   18 - 24 October 2012
Issue No. 1119
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Recipe for more jobs

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Jobs will probably not be awaiting these university students

THE MIDDLE EAST and North Africa (MENA) region can benefit immensely from its young population if "an environment that promotes open competition is created, supported by an education system that teaches relevant skills," says a new World Bank report. The report, titled "Seizing the Opportunity: Jobs and Change in the Arab World", analyses the causes for youth unemployment in the region and suggests a set of policy reforms.

According to the press release of the report, "increased competition will be critical for converting the MENA private sector into an engine of economic growth and good jobs." The report says that steps to ease the entry of new firms must be put in place, such as "the aggressive simplification of business regulations, along with holding to account those responsible for enforcing them and building the financial infrastructure necessary to expand access to credit."

Moreover, the report said "lowering the barriers to both entry and exit would create a dynamic private sector, which encourages investment and innovation, and ultimately increases the demand for labour."

The report highlights that MENA suffers from regulations that make hiring difficult and encourage investment in machinery over labour. It pointed out that labour laws in the region that restrict an employer's ability to manage the workforce end up protecting the privileged few with jobs who are mainly older men.

The report recommends strengthening unemployment benefits and social safety nets while easing regulations to increase the mobility of workers and encourage more hiring.

But in the meantime, the report said reforms must also be made to ensure the private sector can find the skills it requires.

"MENA has one of the highest numbers of employers that complain about the difficulty of finding prospective employees with the right skills," the report says. To overcome this situation, the report proposes reforming education systems to ensure they equip students with relevant skills.

The report also highlights the need to address barriers women face by guaranteeing a safe working environment and compensating for the additional domestic burdens they often shoulder.

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