The World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia provided a platform to discuss ideas and best solutions to address youth unemployment. Not enough has been done over the years to address this issue, despite various discussions and initiatives launched at a regional and local level over the years.
A number of factors are preventing us from acting quickly enough and from finding the most effective solutions, first among these being that most discussions were directed from specific country needs even though we live in a globalized world. We need to think out of the box and understand where we stand within the larger perspective of the region and world. Holding pre-Forum preparatory sessions, workshops or information sharing would make for more effective results.
Discussions revealed a number of interesting points. One concerns the skills mismatch, meaning the difference between available vs needed skills. This is not limited to specialized skills, but also concerns “soft” skills and entrepreneurship. Skills are now considered the “currency” of the 21st century, to be developed and nurtured.
Second, about one third of employable youth want to be self-employed, according to a Price Waterhouse Coopers survey. In positive terms, this can be considered an opportunity to foster and support entrepreneurship and innovation.
The “culture of shame” was another subject of concern. It is prevalent at different levels in the region and calls for changing the perception of certain jobs as not being good enough when in fact they provide local job opportunities and a living.
Also mentioned was the expectation of employment in the public sector, for peace of mind and financial security. This places a heavy burden on public budgets, prevents funding of other projects which could create a greater number of jobs and ultimately leads to a lack of motivation, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in youth.
These are but a few of the many interesting points raised. There are many solutions available, but we need to keep in mind that though each country may have a different situation, we do live in a global world which can help us find creative solutions on how best to address these issues together. We need to act now.
Dina Shoman (@dinashoman) is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Executive Vice-President of Branding and Member of the Board of Directors at Arab Bank and a participant at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia 2012.
Pictured: His Excellency Jaafar Hassan, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at a youth employment crisis brainstorm session at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia 2012 / Twitpic by Dina Shoman.