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Youth riots over jobs threaten everyone

Youth riots over jobs threaten everyone

Don’t think the UAE is immune; this is a fire that could engulf the whole region. With such a huge young population, governments must do everything possible to ensure jobs and opportunity.

January 11, 2011 4:13 by

It is very easy to conceive that this unrest over employment could easily translate into social unrest that could threaten entire regimes. And while the merits of many regional governments can be easily debated, this kind of instability could be extremely dangerous for prospects of peace in the Middle East, and by extension bad news for many countries including the UAE.

There are no two ways about it: Arab governments need to promote as much employment as possible as fast as possible. This means encouraging entrepreneurism, it means cutting down red tape for small and medium companies, and it means relaxing the rules on who can own a company (in the UAE, for example) to encourage new arrivals and new start-ups. And it means greater transparency and higher standards to attract investment, not to mention stamping out corruption at every level.

Those may not sound like particularly attractive or easy propositions to established governments, but the alternative should be even less palatable – a disaffected, angry majority of the population (60 percent of the Middle East is under 25) with no meaningful outlet for their building frustration.

The UAE, for one, is taking steps to encourage entrepreneurship, but more needs to be done by it and other countries, and faster. The often petty arguments over the tiniest details of economic policy are distracting people from the big picture: According to the IMF, the region needs 18 million new jobs in the next decade. It may not seem it now, but this huge challenge is also an urgent one.

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