The wave of protests and social unrest affecting several countries in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region is to a large extent the result of the failure of the region’s economies to provide decent living conditions for their citizens, especially the youth. The MENA region is specifically confronted with a double burden, both demographic and economic: it is the youngest region in the world, with more than 60% of its 380 million population under 29, but this ‘‘youth bulge’’ is confronted with the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, standing at 25%, compared to an average of 14% internationally.
The large number of youth in the region (100 million between the ages of 15 and 29) puts significant pressure on the region’s health and education systems, especially at the secondary and tertiary educational levels, as more and better schooling opportunities need to be created. Moreover, the “youth bulge” poses major challenges to the region’s labour markets, as new jobs need to be created to absorb the large number of workforce entrants. The World Bank estimates that 40-50 million new jobs need to be created in MENA countries over the next decade.