Dreams to despair for Egypt's young

Young workers in Egypt try to find work Nabil Ali created his own work tuktuk driving

Nabil Ali's tuktuk is his pride and joy. The 21-year-old polishes the hub cabs to within an inch of their life and he carries three bottles of dashboard polish on board, in case he needs to spruce up the tuktuk between passengers.

No attention to detail is spared - the windscreen wipers have silver skulls on each blade and to really make his vehicle stand out, he fitted it with an extra-large double exhaust pipe - in pink.

Nabil paid about $800 (£500; 620 euro) for the extras but for him, it is money well-spent. It means more people want to ride with him rather than his fellow tuktuk drivers in Egypt. And that's important. The past year or so - especially during the revolution - has been tough.

"There was no-one in the streets and no-one going to work, there was nothing," he says. "I used to work anyway and with God's help I used to make some money and come home at the end of the day."

How the numbers break down

Young unemployed

Region Total (millions) Rate (%)

World

74.5

12.6

Developed economies and EU

10.8

18.0

Central and south-eastern Europe

4.4

17.6

East Asia

12.9

9.0

South East Asia and the Pacific

7.8

13.5

South Asia

13.0

9.8

Latin America and the Caribbean

8.0

14.3

Middle East

3.4

26.5

North Africa

3.9

27.9

Sub-Saharan Africa

10.3

11.5

Source: ILO

From revolution to disappointment

While Nabil is back on the road, so to speak, Egypt's economy is still struggling. Ahmed Raafat is 25 and studying for a masters degree in petroleum engineering at Cairo University.

He took part in all the protests last year and tried to find a job, without success. When the new government was elected, he gave them a chance - but he has still not found a job and so has carried on studying to give him something to do. Now he says, enough is enough and he's back on the streets protesting.

"It's depressing and I'm kind of disappointed," says Ahmed. "We thought that people who believed in what we fought for would reach power and apply what we were fighting for. And then we find that the new government just keeps the same economic policies that Mubarak was following."

Experts say that Egypt needs about 700,000 new jobs to be created each year just to keep the unemployment rate stable. And for that to happen, the country needs to be growing at between 5% and 7% a year. But, at the moment it is nowhere near that. Last year it grew 1.8%.

"We're not in the situation as we are in southern Europe where there's about 50% unemployment among youth but if the economy continues to grow at these sorts of levels, by the end of this time next year, we may be getting close to those levels," says Angus Blair of the Signet Institute in Cairo.

"It's vital that in the short to medium-term the government and whoever's in power really try to encourage investment and give people hope and confidence that job creation will come about."

Sales skills

One of the other issues facing young people here in Egypt is a lack of skills to equip them for the right job.

A not-for-profit organisation called NEDA, the National Egyptian Development Association, has teamed up with some of Egypt's biggest businessmen to run classes to help broaden the job search.

At the moment, NEDA is training young university graduates in sales skills. Sales is a growing industry in Egypt and therefore a safe job option for people out of work.

And the results, so far, are pretty positive. To attend the courses that NEDA runs, students had to have been looking for a job for at least a year. But 85% of the people who completed the sales skills courses either have a job offer or on-the-job training.

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.

"There is unemployment but there are other jobs nobody wants to take," says Said Botros, a dentist and the deputy chairman of NEDA. "We're trying to change the graduates' minds."

Happily ever after?

But for Nabil, his mind is set. He has just got engaged and his tuktuk offers him a future for him and his family - and he is not alone in thinking that.

"A friend of mine graduated from university and he was offered some jobs but he didn't go," says Nabil. "He decided to buy a tuktuk and get someone to drive it. The income he's getting is not bad - he doesn't work and only rents the tuktuk and makes decent money to provide for his family.`'

Once Nabil is married, he plans to upgrade his tuktuk to a minivan - but he will stay in his neighbourhood. Nabil's life is constantly on the move - a stark contrast to Egypt's economy, which looks like it is going nowhere - for now.

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