Enabling success

Supporting Youth in MENA in their Transition from Learning to Decent Work

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Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is often challenging for young people worldwide. However, in addition to the inevitable uncertainties and questioning, these are also times of skills-building, exploration and intellectual, professional and physical growth. The systems in place to support children and youth during these times have the potential to help them flourish or create additional bottlenecks and barriers.

More than 250 million children and youth aged 0–to–24 years live in MENA countries, comprising around 47 percent of the total population. The rapidly growing population of children, adolescents and youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region opens numerous opportunities as well as myriad challenges that the region struggles to navigate. Harnessing these opportunities for the MENA societies would mean achieving higher economic growth rates, greater equity and well-being, and better social indicators.

Despite widespread awareness of youth employment challenges in the region among governments, other labour market actors  (employers and workers) and academia, MENA’s youth unemployment rate has long been the highest in the world. In 2019, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 29.7 per cent of young people aged 15–24 were neither employed, in school or receiving training. For young women that figure rises to a very worrying 42.4 per cent. The latest data show that young people are still three times more likely than older workforce cohorts to be unemployed. Various factors contribute to this situation, among which a key obstacle is the limited effectiveness of existing education and training systems to equip adolescents and young people with the skills needed to secure their future as adults. This report represents an urgent call for investment in modernizing education and training systems and developing and implementing job-creation strategies targeting youth.

The report is a result of collaboration between the ILO and UNICEF, with expertise contribution from the European Training Foundation, and the technical work conducted by Legacy Social Development, as part of a joint effort to seek young people’s voices and inputs, along with other stakeholders’ suggestions, to find ways to address the bottlenecks hindering young people’s transition to the labour market.

Due to their shared concern about the long-term implications of widespread youth unemployment, the ILO and UNICEF joined forces to produce this report to inform engagement with policy makers on the issue of young people’s precarious transition to the labour market and their search for decent jobs.

The report provides an original literature review on youth transitions from education and learning to labour market and active life, identifies bottlenecks in policy and programmatic responses, highlights successful practices and provides policy recommendations.

The study was originally commissioned to generate evidence and recommendations for presentation at the MENA Regional High-Level Meeting on Young People’s Learning, Skilling and Transition to Decent Work held in Amman on 23–24 May 2022, convened by ILO, UNICEF, UNDP and UNFPA under the umbrella of the UN Arab States Issue-Based Coalition on Adolescents and Young People. 

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