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GCC heads need to narrow the youth gaps. Or else.

GCC heads need to narrow the youth gaps. Or else.

Regional leaders must address the various disconnections youth are experiencing, from involving the private sector in youth integrations to bridging gender gaps in society. Or face the consequences.

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September 26, 2011 3:46 by



The GCC is at a moment of unprecedented demographic opportunity,” according to research company Booz & Co.

The company has recently launched a 360-degree look at the youth in the Middle East and a lot of the results are mainly reaffirming some of the current observations most of us have about the issues surrounding education, employment and the region’s youth culture.

The survey covered 415 nationals aged 15 to 24 in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. It focused on areas like education, employment, gender gaps, leisure activities and community engagement.

In a press release relaying the survey, Booz & Co said that “a more universal, all-encompassing effort is needed to ensure that young people are fully engaged in GCC societies.”

The company called for the involvement of governments, private sectors, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and civic organisations in helping shift the way youth are integrated into the workforce.

So what are these issues that need to be addressed specifically?

CURRICULUM REFORM

When it came to education, most had an understanding of the importance of obtaining a degree. However, half of the respondents said that the education system only prepared them for finding job to ‘some extent’ and 20 percent even said this was only true to a ‘lesser extent’.

So most of the kids today don’t feel they get bang for their parent’s buck. And a lot of them (63 percent) indicate that traditional methods of teaching are ineffective. They also say that lack of practical application (60 percent) and the curriculum not being in line with the current job market (58 percent) have hindered students from getting jobs after graduation.

But besides a curriculum reform, it’s fair to say that private sectors need to get involved as well. Internships and mentoring programmes are few and far between when it should be a staple for any company.

UNEMPLOYMENT NIGHTMARE

According to the International Labour Organization, the 2009 youth unemployment rate was as high as 24.9 percent. This was double the global rate of 12.8 percent making it the highest unemployment rate in the world.

It’s easy to blame the high unemployment rate on lack of jobs, increased competition, and more infamously the shrinking market due to the economic crisis. But there’s more to this than meets the eye.

While 58 percent of the respondents say there are ‘very few jobs available’, these same respondents had issues with the jobs that were open. The top criterion for taking on available jobs is the salary. Yes, the region’s youth is highly motivated by a desire for financial security. Surprised?

Job satisfaction only comes in as a second factor, followed by reputation of the company and then job stability.

To Kipp, this looks like era of short attention spans goes hand in hand with the era of demanding instant gratification and the ever-growing feeling of entitlement among inexperienced youth. In fact, not only do they want the high-paying salary (and one would deduce, the corner office), they also want the government to provide it for them, with 65 percent saying governments must expand economy opportunities for youth through the development of youth service programmes.

Unsurprisingly, only 38 percent said the government should team up with the private sector.

Where does this feeling of entitlement come from?

We risk being seen as a grumpy ol’ website, but Kipp thinks a good old fashioned way to get an attitude adjustment is to encourage these kids to work on summer and part-time jobs. It’s a great way to spend the summer and a good way to create a well rounded CV even before you graduate. (Oh yeah, and actually learn the value of money.) And we’re not alone as the authors of the Booz & Co survey mentions this throughout the study as well.

NARROWING GENDER GAPS

When it comes to gender gaps, it’s widely believed that GCC women are “exerting a positive influence on their society—moving out of their homes and into universities. Women have become more participative and vocal in the public arena.

Keeping this in mind, there is a notably (and disconcerting) wide aspiration gap between men and women in the region.

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