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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

“The unprecedented youth riots that have swept the country – and a similarly fierce wave of protests against high food prices in neighbouring Algeria last week – have found echoes across the Middle East and North Africa region, where opportunities for social and economic advancement are frustrated by high unemployment and autocratic regimes.”

So says the Financial Times, referring to the mass social protests seen in Tunisia in recent days. The unrest has been triggered by a combination of factors, mostly higher food prices (a global problem) and extensive joblessness among young people (also a global issue, but one that can only be tackled at a local level), and of course the perceived failure of governments to tackle these issues. Kipp has written about the spectre of a generation of unemployed before. At that point we were speaking about Europe, but we pointed out the same threats were very real for the Middle East, with many young graduates unable to find work. It seems we should have included North Africa in our argument, and it’s not just a problem for graduates.

Thanks to high populations and relative poverty these North African countries are simply the first to see sparks caused by this lingering social problem which could easily spread. It’s not so much that young people have it hard; it’s that there are so few opportunities for them to escape that hardship. With little hope and even fewer outlets for their anger, they are turning to protest.

Masood Ahmed, director for the region at the International Monetary Fund hits the nail on the head in the FT article. “[The protesting] reflects the underlying pressures … on societies by a rapidly growing labour force looking for jobs in economies growing far too slowly to provide them.”

“Many Arabs are tired of waiting for jobs, waiting for housing, waiting for their lives to begin,” Sultan al-Qassemi told the FT. “And they’re afraid that the situation will still be the same in a decade.”

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