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Youth Unemployment in Gaza and the West BankUnemployment rates in Gaza and the West Bank have remained high since 2000, with few signs of significant improvement. Gaza consistently faces higher rates, and youth unemployment in both territories is a persistent concern. As it stands, women often more affected than men. Recently, efforts have been made to address youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank. These efforts are centered around either providing training to improve individuals’ abilities to obtain employment or improving the region’s job market.

The State of Unemployment

Overall, unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank has fluctuated since 2000, remaining high. As low as 14.3 percent in some years and as high as 31.6 percent in others, unemployment was 26.9 percent in 2016. This was barely an improvement from the year before. In the West Bank, the unemployment rate is 18.2 percent, while in Gaza it is 41.7 percent.

Unemployment rates are even higher among youth (those between the ages of 15 and 24). The overall youth unemployment rate for both territories at 41.7 percent. In the West Bank, youth unemployment is 29.8 percent. But, in Gaza, it stands at a concerning 61.4 percent.

Youth Unemployment

Additionally, youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank affects women more than men. The general female unemployment rate is 44.7 percent. This is twice that of the male unemployment rate, 22.2 percent.

Youth unemployment for women is 65.9 percent, but only 36.2 percent for men. This gap persists even for those aged 25 to 34. In this group, female unemployment is 55 percent and male unemployment is 23.4 percent. As a result, women are more likely to be chronically unemployed. Over time, this only makes them less and less employable.

Moreover, educational attainment has not been found to have a significant impact on reducing unemployment rates. In 2016, the number of unemployed post-secondary school graduates was 33.1 percent. By profession, teachers have the highest unemployment rate, 45.8 percent. This primarily impacts women as they make up the majority of trained educators.

In other fields, unemployment for female graduates is often double that of male graduates. This is most notable in STEM fields. However, even in traditionally “female” fields, male graduates have more success in getting employed. For example, 21.5 percent of male educators are unemployed, compared to 55.9 percent of female educators.

Many factors impact the ability of young women to join the labor force, including travel restrictions and social norms. The World Bank has noted that the probability of a man with a secondary degree in the occupied territories joining the labor market is 65 percent. However, that probability is only 8 percent for women. This indicates that though some women are getting degrees, they are not always able to use them.

Efforts to Improve Youth Unemployment

There are efforts being made with the goal of decreasing youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank. Within the past five years, several initiatives have been created to improve opportunities for youth.

In 2014, the Bank of Palestine formed a diaspora program which seeks to use the resources of diaspora Palestinians to help decrease youth unemployment. Approximately 7.2 million Palestinians live outside of Israel and the occupied territories, and have an aggregate wealth of $70 billion. The Bank of Palestine seeks to draw on the resources of these successful Palestinians to improve economic conditions in Gaza and the West Bank.

Additionally, through this network some diaspora Palestinians have become engaged with the issue of youth unemployment, working with the Bank of Palestine to help Palestinian youth. For example, Marcelo Diaz Qumseyeh, a Palestinian who resides in Chile, has worked directly with some Palestinian youth. He gives them advice on how to become successful entrepreneurs. He is also helping to develop a program that will invest in start-ups by Palestinian youth and provide training, mentorship and opportunities for networking to young Palestinians.

International Trade Center Training Efforts

The International Trade Center (ITC) has also been training young entrepreneurs in an effort to improve youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank. After a four-month training course that taught 83 youth and refugees in Gaza skills such as web development, digital marketing and graphic design, these individuals collectively secured more than $40,000 in sales. The government of Japan funded the program. In fact, the program helped the trainees gain knowledge about how to find jobs, enter new markets and connect with their clients.

More generally, improving the economy of the occupied territories is also essential to decreasing youth unemployment. According to the World Bank, the Palestinian economy needs a stronger domestic private sector in order to grow. As a result, they have been supporting private investments and job creation, with a focus on supporting youth and female entrepreneurs.

For youth unemployment to significantly decrease, efforts such as these need to continue. Additionally, there is a need for the development of more initiatives and programs. Many young people continue to struggle to find work, particularly in Gaza, where youth unemployment is particularly high. Hopefully, this problem will be substantially addressed in the near future, resulting in the lessening of youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Worker Remittances and Poverty in the Arab World
The Arab world has one of the highest proportions of migrant to local workers in the world, with over 32 million migrant workers in the Arab states in 2015 alone. In addition, the region has one of the largest diasporas in the world. This means that many skilled workers are emigrating to wealthier countries and sending money home via remittances. But what do remittances in the Arab World mean for the region and its inhabitants?

Brain Drain vs. Gain

In Lebanon and Jordan, unskilled labor is provided by growing numbers of refugees and foreign workers, totaling over five million in 2015. However, as more foreign workers enter the country, growing numbers of high-skilled Lebanese and Jordanian nationals are emigrating. This often occurs when opportunities are limited, when unemployment is high and economic growth slows. The phenomenon is dubbed ‘brain drain’ as opposed to ‘brain gain’, whereby an increasing stock of human capital boosts economies. A drain occurs while poor countries lose their most high-skilled workers and wealthier countries in turn gain these educated professionals.

Remittances in the Arab World

These expatriates commonly work to improve their own living situations while also helping to support their friends and families. This is where remittances come into play. As defined by the Migration Data Portal, remittances are financial or in-kind transfers made by migrants to friends and relatives in their communities of origin. Remittances often exceed official development aid.  They are also frequently more effective in alleviating poverty. In 2014 alone, the Arab states remitted more than $109 billion, largely from the United States followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

There is no denying that remittances can be a strong driving force for the socioeconomic stability of many Arab countries. But not all the influences are positive. Some experts argue that remittances can actually hurt the development of recipient countries. Their arguments cite potential negative effects of labor mobility and over-reliance on remittances. They emphasize that this can create dependency which undermines recipients’ incentive to find work. All this means an overall slowing of economic growth and a perpetuation of current socioeconomic status.

The Force of the Diaspora

The link between remittances in the Arab world and poverty is clear. Brain drain perpetuates and high amounts of remittance inflow and outflow persist if living conditions remain unchanged. Policymakers are therefore focusing efforts on enticing emigrants to return to their countries of origin. By strengthening ties with migrant networks, and implementing strategies like entrepreneurial start-up incentives and talent plans, the initial negative effects of brain drain could be curbed.

Overall, though brain drain and remittances can seem to hurt development in the short-term, if policies can draw high-skilled workers back, contributions to long-term economic development can erase these negative aspects altogether. Young populations that have emigrated to more developed countries acquire education and valuable experience that is essential to promote entrepreneurship in their home countries. Moreover, their experiences in advanced democracies can bolster their contribution to improved governance in their countries of origin. The Arab world’s greatest untapped potential is its diaspora, and it could be the key to a more prosperous future, if only it can be harnessed.

Natalie Marie Abdou
Photo: Flickr

Borgen_Project_Foresight_Africa_Africa's_Top_Priorities_2013_Whitney_Wyszynski_Whitney_Michelle

The Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings released a report of top priorities for Africa.  The AGI “brings together African scholars to provide policymakers with high-quality research, expertise, and innovative solutions that promote Africa’s economic development.”  The Foresight Africa report shows promising opportunities in Africa.  It outlines the top priorities for Africa in 2013.

Moving from “economic stagnation to above 5 percent GDP growth on average,” Africa is prospering.  Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are some of the fastest growing economies in the world, and African governments are embracing this growth by lowering transaction costs.  Africa’s economic growth is creating a new middle class.  This middle class means new markets for goods and services.  The Foresight Africa report notes that it is a prime time for investors.

Some African countries are mirroring Asian models and engaging their diasporas for economic and social development.  South Africa, for example, is using TalentCorp’s model.  TalentCorp is a partnership between the government, the private sector and the overseas diaspora.  The model aims to bring highly skilled Malaysians living abroad back to their home country.

Countries everywhere recognize the potential in harnessing Africa’s diaspora.  In 2011, the United States Congress proposed the African Investment and Diaspora Act.  The bill was designed to support African development.  Ghana and Kenya are on the cutting-edge and have already “established units within their respective governments to oversee diaspora affairs.”  AGI’s Foresight Africa report points to these examples as models for other countries.

Check out the full report for more information.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Brookings
Photo: Daily Maverick

Somalia-Construction-Rebuild

Things are looking up for the Somali capital of Mogadishu as the sound of gunfire has recently been replaced by that of construction. Many from the diaspora are finally returning home to rebuild Somalia. As described by journalist Laila Ali of the Guardian, “New buildings and business are emerging from the carnage and lawlessness that pervaded the east African country for more than two decades.”

Many people who fled in the midst of the chaos are now choosing to return home, which has caused the demand for property to skyrocket. Mursal Mak, a British-Somali property developer who is returned after 22 years, has been following the increasing business opportunities. “Real estate is booming in Mogadishu” he says. “This evening I had a meeting with a client and he said ‘Mogadishu is becoming like Manhattan or central London; you are talking incredible prices when it comes to property.’”

Land rights have become sticky, however, with so much land unregistered or with ownership that cannot be confirmed. At times, people take the risk of buying land at half of its value for cases where ownership is unclear. But this has not seemed to disrupt the surge of buying and developing. From grand beach hotels to commercial banks, many from the diaspora are returning home in hopes of rebuilding business in Somalia.

Omar Osman is another Somali who has returned home to set up an internet company, Somalia Wireless, in hopes of increasing connectivity for the growing private sector. He explains, “We are trying to advocate the setting up of business to be as smooth as possible, because, ultimately, the growth of business will translate into job creation and prevent youngsters from being idle and walking into terrorism. Investing and making money is not the goal. The goal is to create jobs, do something to benefit the masses and make life better for every Somali.”

– Shannon Keith

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Laila Ali