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1 Middle East Youth Initiative Mary Kraetsch Panel Discussion on Marginalized Groups and Development in the MENA region American University April 3, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Middle East Youth Initiative Mary Kraetsch Panel Discussion on Marginalized Groups and Development in the MENA region American University April 3, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Middle East Youth Initiative Mary Kraetsch Panel Discussion on Marginalized Groups and Development in the MENA region American University April 3, 2009

2 2 MEYI Beginnings The Middle East Youth Initiative began in 2006 as the first main project of The Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Brookings Institution. The Wolfensohn Center adopts rigorous research approach to address development challenges and bring about action in a sustainable way. MEYI is a joint partnership of the Wolfensohn Center and the Dubai School of Government.

3 3 Rationale for addressing youth issues in the MENA region The Presence of a Youth Bulge - In 2005, the youth population (15-29 years old) peaked at 103 million or 30 % of the total regional population. This is the highest youth proportion in the world. Youth Exclusion - The exclusion of youth occurs along a number of interrelated dimensions. These include education and skill formation, employment, and family formation which covers marriage, housing. Youth Bulge as a Demographic Gift – The youth bulge is a demographic gift rather than a burden or threat. The region can capitalize on this demographic dividend to increase incomes, bolster savings and investment, and improve social welfare. The persistence of youth exclusion despite high levels of growth and development in recent years - Even in countries in the Gulf that have enjoyed a huge oil boom, problems of quality education and employment persist. Youth exclusion is in large part the consequence of distortions and rigidities in institutions that affect youth.

4 4 Our Approach to Youth Issues: Research, Advocacy, and Action Research and policy analysis to guide policy reform. Raise the profile of these issues within the region, especially among policy makers, civil society, the private sector, and other key stakeholders. Advocate and support more research, data collection, monitoring and evaluation, and policy analysis to fill the knowledge gap. Promote greater regional cooperation in research, policy, and investment in these issues.

5 5 The Status of Youth in the Middle East: Education and Employment Education Educational enrollments are high and access to education has expanded rapidly during the past few decades, especially among young women. The main issue in education today is low quality. Employment High unemployment rates for youth (~25%) Average durations of unemployment are high (3 years) Skill mismatch is the explanation for the high rates of unemployment among educated youth.

6 6 The Status of Youth in the Middle East: Marriage, Family Formation & Housing Marriage Marriage is major rite of passage to adulthood in the region. Delayed marriage - Today, in the Middle East, nearly 50 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 29 years are unmarried. Because of the huge social significance of marriage, the phenomenon of delayed marriage represents a new form of exclusion. High costs of marriage- For the average Egyptian, the cost of a wedding amounts to more than 4.5 years of earnings of both the groom and his father. Housing As more couples desire independent housing after marriage, the cost of housing is another factor that contributes to the delay in family formation. In the Middle East the cost of a house is 8 times the average annual income since there few instruments to leverage future earnings.

7 MEYIs Policy Approach - Institutions and Incentives Micro approach which looks at institutional setting that shape youth behavior in key markets: education, employment, social insurance, marriage, housing, and credit. These institutions provide the signals that tell young people what skills to learn, tell firms whom to hire and how much to pay, tell credit agencies whom to lend to, and tell families how to evaluate the potential of a young person as a future spouse and parent Economic Institutions: high share of public sector employment, high degree of job protection, centralized education system Social institutions: cultural and social norms related to gender (affect female education, labor force participation, marriage) 7

8 MEYIs Policy Approach - Examples of Institutions and Incentives (1) Skills Mismatches – Parents invest in their childrens education based on the signals they receive from the labor market. – Parents and students perceive good jobs as requiring a university degree. – Access to universities depends on passing national tests. These tests encourage rote memorization of facts rather than critical and independent thinking. – Thus, families across the Middle East spend billions of dollars on private tutors and students end up spending a lot on developing skills that are not in demand by private sector employers.

9 MEYIs Policy Approach - Examples of Institutions and Incentives (2) Low Level of Volunteering and Civic Engagement – Volunteering is one form of learning that goes on outside of schools and is an important source of work experience and skills acquisition. It can also be used to build resumes and improve university applications. – Despite the high levels of free time that many Middle Eastern youth have, most do not participate in any kind of volunteer work. A Gallup poll in 2006/2007 revealed levels of volunteerism among youth were as low as 4% in Jordan and 2% in Morocco. – These low levels of volunteering among Middle Eastern youth can be attributed to the incentive structure. – Youth are discouraged from investing their time in voluntary work because neither universities, through their admission policies, nor employers sufficiently value voluntary work to make it worthwhile for youth to shift time away from leisure or study.

10 Youth Policy in the Middle East – Recommendations Policy recommendations that take into account the interconnectedness of outcomes in education, employment, and family formation and the role of institutions and incentives: Education - Revise university admissions policies to change learning incentives in grades K-12 (i.e. policies that place a high value on writing skills, critical thinking, leadership, problem solving ). Universities can give weight to past work experience and volunteerism which promote life skills. Employment – Reform public sector employment policies by introducing tests and interviews in government hiring, rather than basing hiring solely on university degrees. Marriage and Family Formation – Any policies that help to decrease the obstacles to marriage will help reduce delayed marriage. Reforming rigid rental laws or mortgage laws to make affordable housing more accessible for young people. (Assaad and Ramadan) 10

11 11 Thank You! ! شكرا

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