Youth exclusion comes at a high price

Daily News Egypt
5 Min Read

CAIRO: The cost of youth exclusion in Egypt amounted to $53 billion in 2006, American University of Beirut professor Jad Chaaban said in a working paper.

This shocking number also represents 17 percent of Egypt’s GDP, the equivalent of the agriculture sector.

Factors contributing to this number include unemployment rates among the youth, dropping out of school, teen pregnancies and youth migration.

Titled “The Costs of Youth Exclusion in the Middle East, the paper was published in May by the Middle East Youth Initiative.

Although previous studies were conducted quantifying the cost of youth exclusion in Latin America, Chaaban said it is the first of its kind in the Middle East.

Using methods similar to that of the World Bank in Latin America, Chaaban studied these factors to determine the costs of this problem in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar and Syria.

There other factors that may be harder to assign a number to, says Chaaban in his report. He lists issues such as drug usage, political participation and the internet as relevant, but hard to quantify.

How are these more ambiguous factors related?

“The World Development Report 2007 identifies five life transitions that are pivotal to youth inclusion: education, work, health, forming families and civic participation. Basically you can’t put aside civic participation, said Ghada Barsoum, the senior program manager of the Population Council in Cairo.

“Civic participation is not just activism in politics, it’s about voluntarism, philanthropy, voting, it’s about engagement in communities. It’s definitely connected to economic exclusion, she said.

The cost of youth unemployment in Egypt represents about 7.56 percent of the country’s GDP, said the report. The number is unequally divided between males and females, with female unemployment costing the country 5.91 percent of GDP and male unemployment costing the country 1.59 percent of GDP.

Female unemployment alone costs Egypt about $2.6 billion, said the report.

This is the crux of the issue; economic exclusion is the inability to find ‘good’ well-paying jobs.

“Some of the young people who find jobs end up in low-paying dead-end jobs that do not support them to reach economic independence or to form families of their own, said Barsoum.

Although there are labor market constraints, limited skills and the quality of education are further hindrances to their economic integration.

In addition, teen pregnancy also contributes to the overall cost of youth exclusion, amounting to $652.3 million in Egypt. The costs of teen pregnancy are generally due to young marriage, reported the study, as opposed to pregnancies out of wedlock.

The cost of adolescent pregnancy is divided between four factors: the adolescent mother’s lost annual income, annual governmental child support, government transfers and subsidies to adolescent mothers as well as medical care for mother and child.

To explain these losses, the study also points to the inefficient use of public resources: “Most Middle eastern countries could decrease youth exclusion by a range of 20 to 80 percent while maintaining the same levels of public spending.

Employment, educational and health policies do not really address the concerns of the younger generations, he said in the study.

As for steps that can be taken to ameliorate the situation, the report suggests “small, well-targeted investments in youth employment initiatives, educational upgrading and better healthcare.

According to Barsoum, There have been so many interventions, policies to include the youth. It s an issue of outreach and effectiveness. There are so many young people who are excluded, therefore, these programs need to have a wider outreach and need to be delivering the right skills that are needed in the labor market.

“The problem has always been there, what s recent is the exercise of putting a dollar value on it, said Barsoum.

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