Youth unemployment and the Arab Spring
Many observers see youth unemployment as the major reason behind the recent popular uprisings in a number of Arab countries. Increasing unemployment over the past two decades has led to frustration among young people, especially among university graduates. Frustration among unemployed youth spilled out into the streets at the beginning of 2011, leading to rebellions against the existing political regimes in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. Civil disorder and strikes have exacerbated the situation, and reduced prospects for a rapid economic recovery.
The unemployment crisis is being aggravated by low capital flows and a sharp decline in exports, resulting from the slowdown in investment and growth in the economies of the region’s main trading partners. The situation for many countries is further complicated by a sharp contraction in employment opportunities in Europe, as well as the Gulf countries – a consequence of the global economic crisis. Finding new job opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is now more pressing than at any other time in the past. The problem is naturally worst in those countries where the risk of increased poverty is most prominent.