Employment Promotion

Unemployment in the Arab states is the highest worldwide, with the regional unemployment rate exceeding 10 per cent in both the Middle East and North Africa.

The problem is particularly pronounced for women and youth. One in four young men and women were out of work in 2011 in the Middle East, which registered a women’s labour force participation rate of a mere 18.4 per cent.

Over the past two decades, job creation has remained concentrated in low productivity sectors and the expanding informal economy. Pro-market reforms have largely failed to promote job-rich private sector growth at a time when jobseekers can no longer count on public sector employment.

Arab workers are increasingly educated but most new jobs require low skills. This has attracted migrant workers and prompted a brain drain from the region.

The high prevalence of informal employment poses a challenge to understanding regional labour market trends. Typically, 67 per cent of an Arab country’s workforce is employed in the informal sector, where they often lack access to job security, social protection and other fundamental rights.

Employment policies are powerful tools for planning, coordinating and monitoring job creation within national policy frameworks. Across the Arab states, the ILO supports employment-related research and analysis, helps countries in formulating national employment policies, and promotes skills and enterprise development, youth employment and job creation, including green jobs.

The ILO has supported labour force surveys in Yemen and Lebanon and the adoption of a national employment policy in Iraq, helped to reactivate the Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection in the occupied Palestinian territory, and conducted a rapid labour market assessment in Jordan.

The Know About Business entrepreneurship-awareness training package has been introduced in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territory, Oman, Yemen, Iraq and Syria, while KAB training has been integrated into national training curricula in Syria, Yemen, Oman and the oPt.

The ILO has also promoted green jobs in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza through skills upgrading, sectoral assessments and the provision of safe housing and livelihoods opportunities.

Skills and employability have been promoted among overage students in Gaza, youth with disabilities in the occupied Palestinian territory and Oman, and construction workers in Lebanon.