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Life after oil

Life after oil

Gulf countries are struggling with how to gird their economies for the day when their fossil fuels run out.

January 27, 2010 10:41 by

To be competitive, they must move into more highly skilled manufacturing, which requires a trained work force.

Whither Youth?

In spite of their wealth and diversification initiatives, the Gulf countries are facing a major challenge common across the Middle East: Some 10 percent of the population in the Middle East is between the ages of 15 and 29 and is entering the work force.

A series of studies conducted by the Middle East Youth Initiative show that youth in the region typically spend an extended period of time after leaving the education system before being able to find a job, a period Tarik Yousef and Navtej Dhillon called “waithood” in their paper “Inclusion: Meeting the 100 million Youth Challenge.”

“In the past three decades, enrollment in secondary schools increased almost threefold,” they wrote. “Improvements in primary and secondary education have created expectations for access to higher education, but only about 25 percent of the region’s youth realize this aspiration.”

Compounding the economic diversification challenge is the need to provide a swell of young people with meaningful jobs. Last fall, Saudi Arabia opened the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a research university which offers free education to students in mathematics, science, and engineering graduate programs. Abu Dhabi will offer fully funded four-year degrees from its NYU Abu Dhabi campus beginning this fall and the Qatar Foundation offers sizable scholarships to local and foreign students to study in Doha.

Education takes years, however, and people are entering the workforce now. Other programs are more focused on training people for a specific skill set. Shaher pointed to Norway’s insistence that international oil companies work with the local population when conducting research and development to conduct the deep-sea extraction necessary for capitalizing on that country’s resources.

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