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Not your average brain drain

Not your average brain drain

The Arab World continues to suffer from staggering unemployment rates. Are regional governments doing enough to curb the region’s brain drain?

December 8, 2009 10:28 by



A recent study conducted by the Arab Labor Organization shows that by 2020, an estimated 100 million Arabs, particularly in the GCC, will be unemployed. At the same time, the percentage of youth in the Arab world is growing significantly. While the rest of the youth world populations are dropping, around 60 percent of Arabs are below the age of 25.  And it is estimated that 20-25 percent of the youth in the Middle East are without jobs.  The number is consistently higher when it comes to female unemployment, at 32 percent.

This means that the region requires the creation of 100 million jobs to absorb the growing labor force. And while governments are becoming more aware of this reality, it is only recently that some have taken action.

The GCC

For decades, the GCC has attracted labor from Asian countries, the rest of the Arab world, and most recently, Europe and North America.  However, with a significant percent of the population in the GCC currently under the age of 15 (numbers range from 30 to 42 percent), it is estimated that Gulf States alone will need to create 4 million jobs in the next 20 years in order to avoid a crisis when it comes to the demographic surge, according to a study by international consultants McKinsey & Company.

After the GCC’s oil boom in the 1970s and 1980s, regional governments used revenues to subsidize public services and employ nationals in the public sector, a practice that led to a divide between national and foreigner workforces. Whereas the government employed mainly nationals, the private sector employed expatriates who fulfilled roles locals could not or did not want to do.



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