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Millennials: Burden or blessing for the region?

The Middle East suffers from the highest level of youth unemployment in the world

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

The Middle East suffers from the highest level of youth unemployment in the world. At 27.2 percent, young people in the region are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the dangers of unemployment due to lack of money and focus. According to a study by Bayt.com, 79 percent of fresh graduates think that finding a job is the greatest challenge of their generation.

Reasons for the high unemployment rate range from regional economic uncertainty to labor-market rigidity. Millennials also have to overcome the stereotype that they are lazy and entitled. This despite recent research that they are willing to put in more hours, take less vacation, and are more likely to prioritize work over personal life than their counterparts in the baby-boomer generation (those older than 35).

‘Work martyrs’

By allowing stereotypes to cloud judgement, employers are losing out on a potentially great asset that is able to achieve the fast-paced growth required in the region. A recent study shows that millennials constitute 43 percent of ‘work martyrs,’ a term used to describe people who struggle or refuse to take their vacation time because of how they think their work projects will suffer.

At least 24 percent of millennials forfeit their annual leave, compared to 17 percent of the baby-boomer generation. The study shows that if a company wants hard-working people with creative ideas who are willing to prioritize short-term growth over their personal lives, it should hire more millennials.

Although young people are likely to put in more hours at work, what they want in return is pretty standard. The Bayt.com report found that millennials’ priorities are in line with their older counterparts: financial stability, good health and a successful career.

The biggest threat to extremism is not foreign meddling or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but unemployment

Yara al-Wazir

Putting both studies together gives the perfect formula for recruitment success: hard-working, creative individuals who are willing to work long hours in return for basic needs that employers can deliver.

On the one hand, cities such as Dubai want to grow and deliver quality services to its consumers. On the other hand, there is much political and economic uncertainty in countries such as Syria and Libya. Millennials make up more than half of the region’s population, and must be given real opportunities to make a difference despite economic difficulties.

The biggest threat to extremism is not foreign meddling or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but unemployment. If young people are not trained and given experiences that prepare them to lead the region in the future, the Middle East will continuously struggle to achieve economic and social stability.

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Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

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