Espen Barth Eide, Managing Director and Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum
Philipp Rösler, Managing Director and Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum
Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have made tremendous progress in the past decades, building cities at the forefront of innovation, becoming global leaders in select industries, and continuously expanding their global aspirations. Yet, to sustain this momentum, dramatic progress needs to be achieved in how young people, a demographic majority, engage in the economy and society at large. GCC leaders are acutely aware that a job is more than a salary, and that the possible consequences of compromised futures, because of under- and unemployment, are deeply destabilizing. They understand that providing a dynamic, enabling environment in which these youth legions can realize their ambitions is critical to whether their economies can achieve their long-term aspirations, particularly in light of the current social context.
At present, however, even with wide acknowledgment of the importance of the matter and despite decades of economic expansion and extensive investments in education, infrastructure projects, and economic diversification, high youth unemployment rates persist, often reaching double digits.
Against this backdrop, the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Arab Employment Initiative convenes stakeholders around an impartial platform to create better understanding of the structural reasons for youth unemployment, and translate the widespread appetite for resolving the challenge into effective solutions that sustainably increase productive youth employment in the private sector. Recognizing the particularities of resource-endowed economies, the initiative began by engaging leaders of the GCC from business, government, civil society and academia at the highest levels to share perspectives and best practices, with the objective of advancing common action for creating an enabling economic environment for Arab youth.
This report represents the culmination of an exhaustive exploration of the root causes and potential solutions for youth unemployment in GCC countries, based on the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Foresight approach. It works to understand the issue from stakeholders’ diverse perspectives and provides principles for the design of interventions. Thus, this report offers a tool to policy-makers and business leaders in addressing the issue effectively.
The analysis highlights the deep-rooted social and economic behaviours that drive youth unemployment in GCC economies and concludes that effectively tackling an issue borne of such an engrained framework ultimately requires a holistic approach. This need for change calls for a bold leadership in fundamentally rebuilding the employment system to create a new, more sustainable form of social stability. It also calls for a collaborative effort involving policy-makers, the private sector and civil society, and engaging young people themselves.
Most importantly, such an undertaking asks for the region’s collective courage and foresight to abide potential short-term costs in order to seize long-term opportunities. Only such an inclusive, holistic effort will enable the GCC to fully capitalize on its demographic dividend.
We hope that this report will spur debate and action and we would like to express our gratitude to all stakeholders who participated in this process and, in particular, to the Middle East and North Africa Regional Business Council Project Board.
The World Economic Forum remains firmly committed to improving the state of the region by promoting constructive and forward-looking multistakeholder dialogues. The World Economic Forum will further bring together key stakeholders in a series of open dialogues in the Middle East and North Africa region through its Global Project on Employment, Skills and Human Capital.