We’re mobilizing investment and expertise to create opportunity in the Middle East.
The Middle East and North Africa have the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world—over 25 percent. Two-thirds of the region’s people are younger than 30, implying an enormous need for job creation. Over the next generation, the workforce will need to accommodate an additional 55 million people.
Clearly, the status quo is not sustainable. Young people across the region are demanding change and calling for better job opportunities, as recent events have shown.
IFC and the Islamic Development Bank are seizing this historic opportunity to invest in Arab youth, by launching a program that over five years could mobilize up to $2 billion to promote Education for Employment, or e4e. Through a combination of investment and advisory services, the initiative will support vocational education, training, work-readiness programs, and university education throughout the region.
To better understand the needs of both students and employers, and to craft education programs that better meet those needs, IFC also funded a 3,000-person survey across nine countries in the region.
As we discovered, a majority of employers in five MENA countries think that recent graduates lack the appropriate skills for their workplace. In a separate World Bank study, 80 percent of Algerian firms reported recruiting problems because of a lack of qualified labor. At the same time, a university education does not guarantee a job—in some countries, the unemployment rate is higher for university graduates than other young people.
In other words, there is a serious disparity between the education provided in existing institutions and the skills demanded by businesses. By fostering collaboration between employers and educators and providing targeted training, the e4e initiative is attempting to shrink the skills gap.
Governments in the region have traditionally provided the funding for education, but e4e will also encourage greater roles for private institutions and student self-financing. Across the region, only 15 to 20 percent of students receive private post-secondary education, yet 36 percent of students answered that they would pay for post-secondary education if it helped them get a job.
In the words of Queen Rania of Jordan, Honorary Chairwoman of the e4e initiative: “Governments must create an enabling environment for the private sector. The private sector must bridge gaps between schools and job markets.” To read the full e4e report, please visit: www.e4earabyouth.com.