Report: Redefining the Transition from Education to Work in the Middle East

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EDT&Partners released a report “Redefining the Transition from Education to Work in the Middle East” at the Unlearn/Relearn event which took place in Dubai in May of 2022. Read the introduction here and download the full report below. 

The Future of Work

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have witnessed a “youth bulge” in their population pyramid, primarily correlated to the demographic evolution of the region, better education, and a decline in early marriages. This factor, coupled with an unemployment rate that stands at 30% for Arab youth, has created a sense of urgency for corporations, policy-makers, and educational institutions to create new jobs for the upcoming influx of new market entrants. In fact, confronted with more than 66 million youth and a tangible advancement in education, economies in the Arab world face challenges in their ability to match the demand for employment with the creation of a sufficient amount of jobs. This hence puts the region at the forefront of discussion given the increasing amount of plans, agendas and programs set in place to achieve a better future for upcoming and current generations.

The challenge, however, lies in the fact that unemployment spells tend to run longer for youth, and to a greater degree for the educated among them, while they search for a job that matches their skills. Therefore, the future of work does not solely mean new market entrants, but also the demand for new skills and the need for all key players to adapt accordingly.

Upskilling, Reskilling and the Skills Gap

This research focuses on a select few countries in the MENA region – who, among others, have developed an agenda to facilitate access to education for all – to understand their individual problems on a larger scale. Despite individual country-level efforts to address the challenge facing employability in the region, only focusing on equipping the youth of today with the right education for the jobs of tomorrow will lead to, one, growing competition and, two, a gap between the developed skills, the needed skills and the available jobs. With this gap being accentuated in MENA, it could cost the region up to 3 billion US dollars in GDP by 2030. Even on a global scale, it is estimated that “30-40% of workers in developed countries may need to change occupations or at least upgrade their skill sets significantly”, putting further pressure on all institutions to address this gap in talent before falling behind. 

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