Young workers: Youth unemployment in the Arab world

The issue of youth unemployment in Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa was a major catalyst behind the Arab Spring, research suggests.

The Arab world has the highest rate of unemployment among youth in the world, and according to a report by the International Finance Corporation and Islamic Development Bank, the problem is costing Arab countries more than $40bn (£24bn) annually.

BBC Arabic spoke to a group of young men and women from different Arab countries about the challenges they face in their job searches.

Engy Yasser, 28, architect, Egypt

Engy Yasser

After graduating in 2006 with a degree in architecture from a private university in Cairo I found a job with an interior design company through personal contacts.

But I had to leave my job after having my baby because the company would not give me three months off work to take care of my newborn.

I have a three-year-old girl and find it hard to accept an underpaid job because I feel that the time I sacrifice being away from my young daughter is too precious.

Now I'm still in search of work but I'm not very hopeful as the Egyptian job market has suffered in the wake of the revolution.

I have considered starting my own business, but I face two challenges; lack of funding and not having enough experience.

I might start small and offer my services to friends and acquaintances but even that is tricky because you're expected to offer these services as a favour to people you know.

Saeed Ben Ali, 22, lawyer, Morocco

Saeed Ben Ali

I attained a law degree from Marrakech in 2010 and since then I have found great difficulty in finding a job in Morocco.

I've been searching since graduating and haven't found a single job yet.

I've sent my CV to many companies but so far I haven't even got an interview.

Ideally I would open a small law firm in the building and construction sector, an area I'm knowledgeable in, but unfortunately I don't have the initial funding to start such a project.

Some have advised me to pursue a masters degree as it provides more opportunities in the job market.

I think the main problem is the job market has worsened because of the economic crisis in Morocco. We also suffer from cronyism here.

Mennat Maassarani, 31, digital media professional, Lebanon

Mennat Maassarani

I'm a Lebanese-Egyptian and I decided to move to Lebanon from Cairo after the Egyptian uprising as I found it hard to cope with post-revolution politics and culture despite taking part in the demonstrations.

I struggled to find work in Beirut because I didn't have a network here. I've found that it is hard to break into the Lebanese labour market without strong contacts.

One of the other problems I faced is finding a job with income that accommodates my standard of living as well as adds value to my career. Thankfully because I have a diverse background I have been able to find some small freelance work here and there.

I sent my CV to a number of companies in a search of a job, but for a long time I didn't get any response. I think many companies nowadays rely on personal recommendations and references in finding the right employee.

Luckily for me after months of applying online, calling companies and knocking on doors, I got a job as a community manager in an online company that offers web solutions.

Hashem Dogoosh, 28, bio-chemical science graduate, Sudan

Young and jobless graphic

High youth unemployment is one of the biggest problems confronting societies around the world, condemning whole generations to a life of much reduced income.

In our special report we look at the challenges facing today's young and jobless, and the attempts to overcome the problem.

Since graduating in 2009 I've only managed to get a short-term job as a teacher in a private school in Khartoum. After that I struggled to find any other work.

I have applied to endless jobs in the private and public sectors, but if you don't have the right contacts, getting a job is extremely difficult.

I have found very few economic development projects which could help create more jobs for youth. The few projects that exist are all concentrated in the capital city which places more pressure on the job market in Al Khartoum.

The other issue I face is that the private sector requires at least five years of experience from applicants, which brings us to the question of how do I acquire that experience when I can't find jobs that do not need experience?

I believe that politics plays a big role in the employment selection process in Sudan. I have witnessed discrimination against those who don't belong to the ruling political party.

I'm thinking of pursuing a postgraduate degree. It probably won't make much difference to my job search in Sudan, but I'm planning on looking for work abroad now.

Ahmed Mohamed, 23, porter, Yemen

Ahmed Mohamed

I never had a chance to pursue a university degree because of the financial difficulties we face. But I don't see much evidence that education and university degrees particularly help in the job search in Yemen.

In our country people usually need to start earning money at a younger age due to the high poverty rate.

I had a job with a catering company for three years but lost it when the company had to shut down due to the political turmoil and security crisis in Yemen.

I've looked for work with security and oil companies and in many other sectors but it's really hard to find any opportunities. I get the occasional daily work as a porter but that only comes by once or twice a month.

I have even considered starting a small business like an internet cafe or mobile credit recharge kiosk which makes reasonable income, but I don't have the funds needed to start. Even banks that provide micro-finance loans need guarantees, another thing that I lack.

Finding work after the popular uprising has been difficult as the security and economic situation have deteriorated drastically and many people, mostly youth, have lost their livelihoods.

I believe the high unemployment rate in Yemen is due to lack of opportunities, the deteriorating political and security situation and rampant corruption and cronyism.

Produced by Mai Noman, BBC Arabic

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