Waged employment on the rise in the Middle East and North Africa but youth and women see further job losses

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO)’s annual World Employment and Social Outlook 2015 report shows that while waged and salaried employment is on the rise, youth and women in the Middle East and North Africa continue to suffer from a lack of decent work opportunities.

News | 20 May 2015
Beirut (ILO News) - Waged and salaried employment has risen over the past decade in the Middle East and North Africa while both young people and women have experienced more unemployment, according to the ILO’s annual flagship World Employment and Social Outlook 2015 (WESO).

The WESO report shows that between 2000 and 2014 waged and salaried employment rose from 57.2 per cent of the labour force to 66.5 per cent. Over the same period, overall unemployment in the region actually fell from 13.3 per cent to 11.7 per cent. But this fall in unemployment also masks a rise in youth unemployment from 27.4 per cent to 29.5 per cent of the labour force.

“The report highlights that existing inequalities in the world of work are also reflected in the region,” said Frank Hagemann, Deputy Regional Director of the ILO Regional Office for the Arab States. “The fact that salaried employment has increased over a period of ten years is a positive sign. But this by no means compensates for the enduring effects of widespread structural issues in the region’s labour markets that ultimately affect more vulnerable segments of the population, such as women and youth, more severely than anyone else.”

Jobs gap

The region’s job market dynamics contribute to what the report identified as “a widening global jobs gap” observed since the onset of the financial crisis. As a result, the region has lost US$ 23 billion in potential wages, with approximately 70 per cent of wage losses falling on women.

The report highlights that existing inequalities in the world of work are also reflected in the region.

Frank Hagemann, Deputy Regional Director/ILO Regional Office for the Arab States.

The ILO also found that in 2014, the female unemployment rate in the region was more than twice as high as that for males. Moreover, the female unemployment rate rose from 18.7 per cent in 2007 to 21.3 per cent in 2014, compared to the much slighter increase, from 8.7 per cent to 9.1 per cent, in the male unemployment rate over the same period.

Social protection deficits

The WESO 2015 report also sheds light on social protection gaps across the Middle East and North Africa. Along with sub-Saharan Africa, the region registers relatively low rates of old age pension legal coverage and growth, especially with regard to non-contributory and voluntary pension schemes. According to the latest ILO figures, a similar trend was found with regard to the portion of the labour force covered by periodic unemployment benefits, which stand at just 17.8 per cent, the lowest among all regions except sub-Saharan Africa.

“What is apparent now are the compounded effects of the 2008 crisis and the various recent instabilities have accentuated a pre-existing lack of employment opportunities and adequate social protection in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Hagemann. “Even so, the region possesses the financial and human capacity to reverse this trend if decision makers focus efforts on creating decent sustainable employment which ensures adequate social protection, especially among youth and women.”

For media queries, contact:

Salwa Kanaana, Regional Communication and Public Information Officer, ILO Regional Office for Arab States, Tel: +961 1 752 400 (Ext 117), Mobile: +961 71 505958, email: kanaana@ilo.org