Women in the Arab countries have emerged as the main victims of a festering unemployment problem in the region mainly because of poor investment and social barriers, the World Bank has said.
Three of every four women in the Arab region are jobless while unemployment among the youth ranges between 15 and 15 per cent in many countries of the Middle East, said Inger Andreson, Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa at the Washington-based World Bank.
Speaking to Arab reporters at the Bank’s headquarters, she said that unrest in the region, known as “The Arab Spring” has not led to any improvement in the job sector, adding that more than half the adult populations in the Middle East and North Africa are either unemployed or out of school.
“Three of every four women in Mena region are unemployed while the jobless rate among the youth ranges between 15 and 25 per cent,” she said.
“The labour markets in that region are not generating enough job….unfortunately the region has two records at the world level: three of every four adult women are outside the labour force and a quarter of the young men cannot find jobs.”
Citing a recent World Bank report, she said the women’s share of the labour market in MENA is estimated at only 2.25 per cent, “one of the lowest rates in the world.” She said that the main reasons for this low level is the existence of what she described as social barriers and old cultures.
“It has nothing to do with religion as women are major contributors to the job market in several Moslem countries, including Indonesia and Bangladesh.”
In a recent study, the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund, a key Arab League establishment, said regional countries need to create at least 40 million jobs by 2020 to tackle unemployment, caused mainly by high population growth and poor economic performance in many members.
Although it was cut from around 14.3 per cent in 1990 to about 13.5 per cent at present, unemployment in the region is still the highest in the world and requires intensification of reforms to spur economic growth and ensure jobs for unemployed citizens, mostly the youth, the AMF said.
“As a group, the Arab countries are suffering from the highest unemployment rates in the world despite a slight improvement in the past years….the Arab joblessness rate is now above 13 per cent compared to an international average of nearly 5.7 per cent,” it said.
“The improvement over the past years has been mainly a result of greater participation by the private sector…but the region now faces a serious challenge in matching the rapid growth in the population and labour force and how to ensure jobs for those who are about to join the labour market, mainly the youth, who account for nearly 50 per cent of the total jobless Arabs….if the Arab countries want to face that challenge and reduce unemployment by half, they will have to create nearly 40 million jobs by 2020.”