Unlocking the Employment Potential in the Middle East and North Africa: Toward a New Social Contract (Orientations in Development)

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Over the next two decades, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region faces an unprecedented challenge. In 2000, the labor forces of the region totaled some 104 million work... more on CAIRO BOOKS

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Over the next two decades, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region faces an unprecedented challenge. In 2000, the labor forces of the region totaled some 104 million workers, a figure expected to reach 146 million by 2010 and 185 million by 2020. Given this expansion, the economies of the region will need to create some 80 million new jobs in the next two decades. With unemployment now at about 15 percent, the more ambitious goal of absorbing unemployed workers in addition to the new entrants implies the need to create close to 100 million jobs by 2020, a doubling of the current level of employment in the first two decades of the 21st century. In no small measure, MENA's economic future will be determined by the fate of its labor markets. The problems to be overcome are enormous; their complexity is daunting. Yet the costs of inaction and the benefits of dynamic labor markets underscore the imperative of acting quickly and decisively. If current trends continue, economic performance and the well-being of workers will be undermined by rising unemployment and low productivity. If labor market outcomes improve, however, MENA's growth will accelerate, raising the living standards of the population across the region. Unlocking the Employment Potential in the Middle East and North Africa argues that meeting this employment challenge will require the transformation of MENA's societies and economic structures. MENA needs a new development model based on a reinvigorated private sector, greater integration into the world economy, and better management of oil resources. These drivers of future growth and job creation require a foundation of better governance. Moreover, this transformation necessitates a new social contract.

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