The two key constraints to employment in the Mediterranean partner countries (MPCs) are insufficient labour demand (in particular for qualified labour), i.e., job creation, and skills mismatches due to failures in the education system, i.e. employability. This report focuses on the second of these problems, and more specifically on youth and female employment and employability.
Youth employment challenges in MPCs are daunting: the so-called “youth bulge” caused by rapid demographic transition in Arab Mediterranean countries (AMCs) and Turkey means that between
27% and 31% of their populations are between 15 and 30 years old, and this ratio will continue at least for the coming two decades. This means a total number of more than 80 million young people
in all MPCs in 2010 and a number approaching to 100 million in 2020. Middle East and North African countries experience the highest average rates of youth unemployment in the world, well
above 25%, despite very high rates of female inactivity, a specific regional feature that keeps the unemployment rates down. Similarly Western Balkan countries have also extremely high youth
unemployment rates, 57.7% in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and 47.1% in Montenegro. Female unemployment (and inactivity) is very high even among the young population, despite the
increasing levels of education and aspirations of women for jobs.
To complete the picture of youth unemployment and under-employment in the region, it is estimated that more than 20 million young people (mostly unskilled and/or low-skilled) work in informal, poor quality jobs at subsistence wages and without any prospects for improvement.
These are mostly young males who cannot afford to be unemployed or take time to improve/upgrade their skills. The idle youth who are neither in education nor in employment (so-called ‘NEET’) is another group vulnerable to social exclusion as these people are more likely to be
illiterate and/or school dropout females. Although it is difficult to get statistics on NEET in MPCs, surveys for some countries show close to half of the youth population, i.e. as much as 40 million young people. This “youth employment gap” entails a waste of human capital and education investment, a de-valorisation of (scarce) national human resources and an increased risk of social instability.

There are already a number of good initiatives in different countries, identified as ‘good examples’ in the boxes of the report: e.g. many governments in the region quickly recognised and reacted to
the social demands of jobs after the ‘Arab spring’, increasing the scale and size of public works, active labour market programmes, training and retraining courses, employment subsidies, gendersensitive career guidance and counselling, mainstreaming entrepreneurship training across the education system, etc. The efficiency and effectiveness of programmes need to be increased and vigorously monitored for better results. The report concludes with some elements for an agenda for
national employability policies and Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in this field. Some of the highlighted strategic recommendations are the following:
At national level, in the field of education and training:

  • Widespread national literacy programme
  • Increased enrolment and quality in post-compulsory education (including girls)
  •  Higher attractiveness and quality of VET
  •  More diversified offer of VET programmes
  • A flexible, transparent and better regulated VET sector, linking initial and continuing training
  • Appropriate career guidance and counselling system.

In the specific field of employment policies:

  • Comprehensive national employment strategies
  • Labour market monitoring systems
  • Inter-institutional coordination mechanisms
  • Stronger and efficient Public Employment Services (PES)
  • Cost-effective ALMPs based on the evaluation and impact assessment studies on employability
  • Entrepreneurship and self-employment support programmes
  • Local Employment Development (LED) Initiative.
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