First, If you are unemployed, or experienced unemployment at one point in your life, tell us how has unemployment affected you? Share with us how does it feel to be unemployed?
Let us attempt humanize this problem of unemployment in the Arab world which has turned in to a number in reports and in the media. Second, propose what do you believe needs to be done immediately to tackle unemployment now.
Whether the solution lies in changing policy, adopting technology or innovation, training, spreading awareness, influencing the private sector, fostering entrepreneurship in a better way, or any other solution that might come to mind; please do tweet it in 140 words on Twitter, share it on Facebook or simply comment on this article
So much has been written on the topic of unemployment in the Arab world that I am convinced that the average Arab in the street has become an expert on the topic.
The problem of unemployment has sadly become a fact of life in Arab societies. Ironically, it is also common for those who are suffering from unemployment in the Arab world go to great lengths to hide it from family and community.
I believe this to be a key reason why the available statistics on unemployment are not very accurate. This might be one of the reasons why policymakers have not yet fully comprehended the extent of the unemployment problem.
We have all seen how some of the affected hide their current status and choose to live a kind of ‘double-life’ claiming to be -for example- ‘Businessmen or businesswomen’, ‘self-employed’ Brokers, Freelancers or consultants. What is worrying in this case is when an unemployed person is forced to actually assume these roles not by choice or qualification, but out of desperation or lack of alternatives. Another way I have personally observed how unemployment affects individuals is when the unemployed chooses to disappear or minimise their engagement with relatives and community.
They do so because they dread having to explain themselves when that embarrassing and awkward question is asked “So how is work? Or what are you doing nowadays”? Unemployment is not only a problem in the Arab world, it is also a stigma.
The price of it is too high and it’s the society that will eventually have to pick up the tab at the end of the road. How high has the price of unemployment been in the Arab world you might ask? Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries that have felt the winds of the so called ‘Arab Spring’ is a good place to start the answer with. If you go deep into the eye of the storm that has become known as the ‘Arab Spring’ you will find that it was mainly fuelled by the prevailing status quo of unemployment among the youth and social inequality.
Throughout the years there have been countless solutions that have been proposed to address the problem of unemployment in the Arab world. You might have noticed that these proposed solutions share two key common traits: First, most of the solutions are either from foreign entities or from policymakers. They claim to feel the weight of the problem, but is it really the same to being unemployed and having to carry the burden of unemployment every day? Are they too far from the problem? The second trait you might have observed is the impracticality of some of the solutions. Looking at some of these solutions, sometimes I am led to think that some experts are so out of touch with reality that they are borderline delusional.
Let’s take for example the common proposition we keep hearing whenever unemployment is discussed in the Arab world which advocates the review, overhaul and change of the education system. Such a feat could take decades in some of the Arab countries. Or how about the recently trending yet potentially perilous solution proposed by the advocates of “promote entrepreneurship instead of employment” movement.
I am all for entrepreneurship, however the brutal truth of the matter is this; jobseekers are only concerned with solutions that address questions such as; will any of these solutions help them find a job that will provide them with a stable income, security, or a decent life for themselves and their families? Will any of these solutions provide them with a formal identity (also known as status) in their community or country say, tomorrow, or next month? Or even sometime this year? The truth is, I have yet to meet a jobseeker who is interested in long term solutions derived from economic or social theory.
Our dilemma today lies in a simple fact, and that is we have been addressing an old pressing problem that requires immediate intervention with long term “potential” solutions.
This post is not about discussing the challenges that face unemployment AGAIN. Neither am I interested in proposing ‘potential solutions’ that require years of research to implement. What I am interested in is prompting all the stakeholders of this problem –the jobseekers, employers, policymakers and society- to take an immediate remedial action now. How can we achieve this? First, by getting our voices heard about how it really feels to be unemployed to the concerned. Hopefully, this might change the way the unemployed are viewed by policymakers, decision makers and society; as ‘real’ people with ‘real’ problems as opposed to being viewed simply as statistics or bureaucratic processes that need to be processed.
Second, I want this article to be a platform where readers voice out what they think should be the immediate and rational steps that need to be taken NOW in order that we begin stimulating the job market and creating jobs. So here is my ‘call to action’;
First, If you are unemployed, experienced unemployment at one point in your life or know someone who is going through unemployment, tell us how has unemployment affected the unemployed? Tell us how does it feel to be unemployed? Let us humanize this problem of unemployment in the Arab world.
Second, propose what do you believe needs to be done immediately to tackle unemployment now.
Whether the solution lies in changing policy, adopting technology or innovation, training, spreading awareness, influencing the private sector, fostering entrepreneurship in a better way, or any other solution that might come to mind; please do tweet it in 140 words on Twitter on the following Hashtag #ArabUnemployed. Share your thoughts on MBC Time’s Facebook page or simply comment on this article. Whatever you do, remember, jobseekers are real people with immediate needs. Long term solutions and theories might look attractive, but what everyone in the community is interested in pragmatic and immediate solutions to an urgent problem