Arab countries need to become more competitive in order to stave off the region’s looming employment crisis, according to a report from the World Economic Forum.
Underdeveloped skills, weak institutions and labor market inefficiency are the main factors limiting economic competitiveness in the region, according to The Arab World Competitiveness Report 2013.
“The unemployment challenge in the Arab world cannot be resolved without major strides in countries’ national competitiveness, as only a strong and dynamic private sector can create a sufficient number of jobs to absorb the countries’ growing young workforce,” the report noted.
“The uprisings and ensuing transitions have brought to light a number of socioeconomic challenges – including youth unemployment, regional inequalities, weak institutions and lethargic private sectors – that must be addressed to fulfill the hopes that have been seeded.”
The report was published during the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, which is currently taking place at the Dead Sea, and which was opened by Jordan's King Abdullah II.
The WEF report reflected an issue raised by many of the panelists at the event: That the Arab world’s severe unemployment problem is the biggest challenge in a region undergoing dramatic political change.
“High unemployment, particularly among the young, female and the educated parts of the population, is considered by many to be the most important socioeconomic challenge currently facing the region,” the report noted. “Growth in the region has not been sufficient to create an appropriate number of jobs, thus leading to high levels of youth unemployment despite efforts to enhance education.”
Thirteen Arab countries were analyzed as part of the report. Syria was excluded because of the civil unrest in the country.
Countries such as Qatar and the UAE moved up in the competitiveness leagues, while other economies like Egypt and Yemen declined in comparison with their global rivals.
Qatar was found to be the most competitive country in the Arab world, placed 11th globally, just behind the UK, Hong Kong and Japan. Saudi Arabia (ranked 18th globally) and the UAE (24th) were the next most competitive. The least competitive Arab countries include Yemen (ranked 140th by the WEF), Libya (113rd) and Algeria (110th).
The report was published by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
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