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Think tank forecasts 19 million unemployed in region by 2020.

Summary: BEIRUT: The number of unemployed people in the Arab world will rise to 19 million in 2020, up eight million from 2008, Kuwait-based think tank The Arab Planning Institute said Wednesday. However, regional unemployment rates will remain unchanged at 11 percent. "These numbers show that most Arab countries suffer from worrying rises in unemployment

BEIRUT: The number of unemployed people in the Arab world will rise to 19 million in 2020, up eight million from 2008, Kuwait-based think tank The Arab Planning Institute said Wednesday. However, regional unemployment rates will remain unchanged at 11 percent.

"These numbers show that most Arab countries suffer from worrying rises in unemployment in comparison with other regions of the world," read the API's statement.

"[We noticed] a rise in unemployment rates among the youth. We noticed also, that Arab girls are more likely to be unemployed than adult women and male youth. In addition, educated youth suffer more from unemployment than uneducated youth," it added.

Population growth rates will rise, a trend not unlike those in other developing countries, according to the API, with birth rates rising and mortality rates falling.

Population growth rates in the Arab world have multiplied by a factor of three-and-a-half between 1960 and 2008, reaching 300 million from 86 million in 1960. Arab populations have grown at an average annual rate of 3.5 percent.

Between 1980 and 2007, the average Arab population growth rate dropped slightly to 3.1 percent, and was overtaken by a workforce average growth rate of 3.5 percent, the API said.

"A workforce rate that exceeds population growth rate can be considered a gift to the population, meaning that Arab countries have a workforce that can support the population by providing the economy with a cheaper workforce that would expedite development projects," the API adds.

"But Arab states are incapable of reaping the benefits of this gift, and the gift transformed into a burden. Although Arab countries have this characteristic that is better than having ageing populations, the governments could not mobilize the workforce to work toward real development."

Arab economic growth rates during the 1980-2007 period averaged 3.5 percent, whereas world averages neared 3.8 percent.

In Lebanon, unemployment rates cruise between 12 and 14 percent, according to most studies by international groups and local non-profits. However, there is no complete consensus about this figure since official demographic statistics are scarce.

An official population census has not been carried out since 1932, before the founding of the Lebanese republic.

Some surveys show that unemployment rates are four times higher among those under the age of 25 than among their adult counterparts.

The Daily Star spoke to an economist last month who argued that high migration rates in Lebanon serve to lessen unemployment rates. If those seeking employment stopped looking for opportunities abroad, then unemployment rates would be much higher since the labor market does not have the capacity to absorb the local workforce, the economist said.

"The fundamental problem of unemployment in Arab countries is that Arab economies are unable to grow at [an annual] real rate that's higher than 5 percent, which would have enabled it to reduce unemployment," API's statement added. -- The Daily Star

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Feb 17, 2011
Words:552
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