The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Thursday unveiled a report detailing global and regional trends in human development. Although the report concluded major gains since 2000 in terms of life expectancy, education and income, the Arab world still faces growing challenges surrounding youth unemployment and social equality.
The report called the creation of new jobs “a development imperative in the Arab region”, attributing the high level of unemployment as a major cause for the unrest in the region over the past two years.
The report singled out Egypt as having the highest rate of youth unemployment, at 54.1%, followed by Palestine at 49.6%.
“The turmoil in several countries in the Arab States is a reminder that people, especially the young, who are better educated and healthier than previous generations put a high premium on meaningful employment, exercising a voice in affairs that influence their lives, and being treated with respect,” the report read.
“The Arab States region has both the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest labour force participation rate, especially for women,” says Sima Bahous, director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States. “For many Arabs today, the true measure of development achievement lies in the number of decent jobs created, and opportunities afforded to people to be productive and economically secure.”
The rise in youth unemployment and the correlation with the unrest lies in part with the fact that several of these countries ranked among the top 20 countries with the largest increase in number of years its citizens spend studying.
“Most countries that were part of the recent unrest in the Arab States had major gains in educational attainment but below-median employment to population ratios,” the report concluded.
There were three points of concern the report highlighted which the UN says “echo some of the concerns featured in UNDP’s Arab Human Development Reports (AHDR)”.
In 2002, AHDR identified the acquisition of knowledge, political freedoms and women’s empowerment as “critical development deficits in the Arab world”. The 2002 report said the challenge of creating new job opportunities to tackle the growing unemployment at the time was critical for Arab countries, and it had to be addressed before the problem got worse.
The report divided Arab countries into three categories; high, medium and low levels of human development.
Egypt is categorised as one of six countries in the medium range of human development alongside Syria; Qatar and the United Arab Emirates ranked the highest.