- Nagham Qassem and Serena Gookeh
- BBC News Arabic
Ali Sharda can be seen talking from his balcony overlooking a narrow street in one of Cairo’s neighborhoods, which has become a luxury of life after years of unemployment. “No meat, no chicken.” I can’t buy these foods, I only eat when invited by my relatives.
At the age of thirty, Ali, who is divorced and specializes in hospitality, spends most of his day browsing the Internet and newspapers in search of work to support his only child. But his desire to find a job coincides with the dreams of millions of unemployed young people in the Arab region.
A recent report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) and the International Labor Organization shows that the Arab region has the highest unemployment rate in the world. . According to ILO statistics, before the Corona crisis, more than 26% of young people were unemployed in Arab countries.
Ali applied to many companies and hotels to get a job, hoping to find a job in his field, but said his efforts were rejected for “various reasons, from intermediaries to insufficient education certificates or appearance and clothing.”
‘A chronic problem’
Although the Jovid-19 epidemic has increased unemployment around the world, the problem in the Arab world is older and deeper. According to the International Labor Organization, the number of unemployed in the Arab region before the Corona epidemic reached more than 14 million in 2019. The Arab world lost the equivalent of 15 million workers in the last quarter of 2020 alone due to the pandemic.
According to Dr. Ruba Jaradat, Regional Director of the International Labor Organization, “The Covid-19 crisis has increased pressure on the labor market and significantly increased unemployment rates.” job opportunities, on the other hand, private sector productivity is weak.
But the reasons are not limited to this, as conflicts, wars and political instability have “caused many investors and individuals to be reluctant to invest in the Arab region.”
unemployment among women
Despite the spread of unemployment in the Arab world, some groups are more vulnerable than others. The report, “Towards a Productive and Comprehensive Path for All: Creating Job Opportunities in the Arab Region,” sheds light on the gender situation. Inequality in the Arab labor market.
He said that despite the narrow educational gap between the sexes, insufficient and fair employment opportunities had not been created due to the inability of the Arab labor market, especially the formal sector, to do so.
Between 2000 and 2020, the unemployment rate among women increased by 3.4%, and the gender gap in senior positions nearly quadrupled compared to the gap between them in the share of full-time employment.
Nadia, a 50-year-old Egyptian widow, has been a job seeker for years. Nadia wants to support her six daughters, but is discriminated against by employers: “If young people are laid off, how will they find jobs for older women?”
However, Nadia did not despair and worked as a newspaper seller and cleaner, but complains that even these businesses “do not earn enough to cover basic expenses.”
Salim Araji, ESCWA’s Economic Affairs Officer, attributes the high unemployment rate among women to the political and war conditions in the region, as well as the Corona pandemic, which is expected to worsen the situation, especially among women.
Araji said women had to return home to take care of their families and were fired more than men during the pandemic.
People with disabilities suffer more
According to the ESCWA report, the most vulnerable groups, such as women, suffer from high unemployment.
Thousands of miles from Cairo, where Nadia lives, Taha Elfendi in the Jordanian province of Balqa shares the same dream.
Taha graduated in 2012 with a degree in graphic design, but has not found a job since.
The disability rate in the Arab world ranges from 0.2% in Qatar to 5.1% in Morocco. The employment rate for people with disabilities exceeds 14% for women and 34% for men.
Taha says the main challenge is sometimes to create an environment for people with disabilities to work, adding: “I am often deprived of a suitable and decent job because I don’t have the right drawer I can handle in the workplace.
Somaya Majzoub, ESCWA’s Social Development Specialist, claims that “Arab countries have complied with legislation that provides quotas and mandatory quotas for people with disabilities in the workplace, but in most Arab countries, employers do not know much about these mandatory quotas.”
Nadia and Taha, on the other hand, have a bleak picture of the future of work in the Arab world, and according to the International Labor Organization, Arab countries need to take urgent action to reduce unemployment. Experience empowers the private sector to reform and empower to create more job opportunities in line with market needs.