Arab youth in distress

One often think that Oil producing and exporting nations do well as a matter of course. Countries like Saudi-Arabia comes to mind, where people do not pay tax and trillions from the black gold is saving the show. However, the story nowadays is not so rosy. Particularly because the price of crude Oil has been so shifting, dipping below 30 dollars a barrel in 2016. The same Saudi- Arabia is of course severly affected by such drops. In 2017 its economic growht shrank by 0,7 %. As a result, the new Prince in charge is currently looking for reforms. This extends to the legality of women driving and cinema halls, but there is also a desire for economic reform. In Saudi-Arabia there is indeed a new scheme to introduce income tax and the stimulation of other trades than oil. Yet how are the prospects for the youth population?

A new report from the IMFS sounds the alarm on youth unemployment in Arab countries. According to IMF one out every four Arab youth are unemployed. Unemployment was a major reason for the protests in 2011 later known as the Arab spring. As will be recalled the protests were sparked off in Tunisia, by an unemployed grocery seller who set fire to himself because of the Government´s lack of action. IMF warns in their new report that the consequences of today´s slow economic growth in Arab countries could be disastrous. And besides dependency on Oil, there are other problems like corruption and inefficient official agencies, an exceedingly high foreign debt and so on, that form barriers for change.

The report identifies some bright spots on the horizon: The United Arab Emirates has made significant investments in education and innovation, and Iran has made job-creation programs for young people and women. Morocco has also recently launched an improving program for education and vocational training, and aims to raise female labor force participation. Egypt has doubled the budget support for public nurseries to help women into the labor force. Yet the challenge remains huge. Because it seems there has to be created 25 million new jobs in the Arab and North African countries in the course of the next five years. The report says that otherwise the huge youth unemployment will only increase.

There is not a large arab diaspora in Norway and the potential for migration here due to unemplyment is not great. Norway´s strict immigration policies take care of that. However, the Norwegian government should try to assist as much as it can to help improve the situation. It is well known that Northern African countries are breeding grounds for terrorist organisations who go after the youth. For instance, a large part of the Jihadist fighters in the so called Islamic state group came from Tunisa. One can only beware of the negative political potential continuing youth unemployment will have in this region.

- Sheila Parrera