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ILO: Youth Unemployment Highest in Middle East, North Africa

  • Lisa Schlein

Unemployed Jordanian Hisham al-Halawani, 24, stands on a street in downtown Amman, May 20, 2015.

Unemployed Jordanian Hisham al-Halawani, 24, stands on a street in downtown Amman, May 20, 2015.

A new report by the International Labor Organization finds a slight drop in the global youth unemployment rate. But, despite a few welcome signs of improvement, the ILO warns the youth jobless crisis remains acute and is far from over.

The report finds a mild recovery in the job market for young people ages 15 to 24. It says the global unemployment rate stabilized at 13 percent in the 2012-2014 period covered. However, it adds this is still well above the pre-crisis level of 11.7 percent.

In total numbers, the report notes 73.3 million young people were out of work last year - down from the crisis peak of 76.6 million in 2009. Despite improvements, the report says the recovery is uneven across regions and countries.

The report notes a slight decrease in youth unemployment in developed economies, including in the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. The jobless rate, however, increased in most of Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa.

The ILO draws a sharp contrast between the situation in the United States and EU. It notes U.S. youth unemployment dropped from 18 percent in 2010 to 10 percent last year; whereas in some EU countries more than 50 percent of young people were without work.

Azita Berar Awad heads the ILO employment division. Awad says youth unemployment levels are highest in the Middle East and North Africa. She tells VOA this situation was related to violence and instability generated by the so-called Arab Spring.

“Lack of decent jobs was at the root of the Arab Spring in many countries - a very important factor. That does not mean the only factor. There was the wave for democratization; but, it was definitely the social confusions of young people. But, the situation varies from country to country, but in general obviously the conflict does not help. It is not the optimal conditions and creates waves of migration," said Awad.

Awad says it is premature to know how the mass exodus of migrants and refugees from the Middle East into Europe will affect the youth job market there. She says it is unlikely that this will have much impact, as young people in Europe and migrants do not compete for jobs in the same labor market.

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