By Masood Ahmed
After an unprecedented global economic downturn, recovery is beginning to take hold across the world. Nevertheless, the downturn has heightened the core challenges that countries faced before the crisis took hold. Among these, one that stands out in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa is youth employment—or a lack of it.
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.
But employment growth has lagged far behind the demands of growing populations, even when the region was experiencing good economic growth. Now with growth rates likely to be more modest after the crisis, the task of generating enough jobs for young men and women is becoming more challenging. Job creation must therefore be a top policy priority going forward.