Employment policy in the Middle East and North Africa

Arab Labour Conference attendees meet to discuss policy solutions as youth unemployment soars

Talks aimed at adopting policies which foster entrepreneurship and skills development in North Africa and the Middle East

Press release | ADDIS ABABA | 15 September 2014
Cairo - The Director General of the Arab Labour Organization (ALO), Ahmad Luqman, has warned of an alarming increase in unemployment since 2010 in the Middle East and North Africa, especially among youth and women,

Speaking to participants of the week-long Arab Labour Conference (ALC, 14-21 September 2014) Luqman called on Arab States to better link pro-employment policies with socio-economic development agendas.

Arab Labour Ministers and representatives of Workers’ and Employers’ organizations are gathered in Cairo, Egypt, to address key employment challenges and propose new policy responses for countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Conference is expected to adopt policies to promote decent employment, inclusive growth and sustainable development in the region.

The conference is hosting delegations from 21 Arab countries, which will consider major reports and adopt a common position on key recommendations drawn from the “Arab Cooperation Prospects to Support Employment” and "The Second Arab Forum for Development and Employment."

Timely and critical 

"The Arab Labour Conference's theme this year on employment is timely and is critical for all Arab countries. It is an important forum to reach consensus on issues that shapes the development of the Arab world both in Africa and in the Middle East," said Aeneas Chapinga Chuma, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa.

The 41st session of the conference is held under the auspices of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the International Labour Office (ILO) is represented by Chuma and the ILO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for the Arab States, Nada Al-Nashif.

The two ILO senior executives will hold tripartite consultations with Arab labour ministers as well as with workers’ and employer’ delegations to discuss issues relating to the world of work in the region.

According to the ILO Global Employment trends 2014, in the Middle East and North Africa region, the economic growth rate in 2013 proved too low to generate sufficient employment opportunities for a fast growing population, and unemployment remained the highest in the world.

Most countries in the Arab region are currently facing decreasing rates of economic growth, especially those confronted with an acute rise of unemployment. Young women and men have been hard hit by a lack of decent jobs despite measures adopted by Arab League countries to reduce youth unemployment and extend access to social protection.

Highest jobless rates 

Youth unemployment in MENA countries remains the highest in the world, reaching 27.3 per cent in the Middle East and more than 29 per cent in North Africa in 2013. This is more than twice as high as the global average and significantly higher than youth unemployment rates in developed economies.

The high percentage of jobless Arab women, especially the young, constitutes a distinguishing characteristic of the Arab region's unemployment.
Some of the policy recommendations for Arab States include the need to foster entrepreneurship, self-employment among the youth, skills development to match the existing labour market requirements and the support to small and medium size enterprises.

“The Arab Labour Organization is an important partner in achieving common objectives and decent work agenda in Arab countries,” Chuma concluded.

For background information, interview requests and photo ops, please contact:

Asmaa Rezk
Communication and Public Information Assistant
ILO Cairo Office & Decent Work Team for North Africa
Tel: (+202) 27 35 01 23
Cell phone: +2 0100 2522325
Email: rezk@ilo.org