Friday, June 12, 2009

Look Who's Coming

I was surprised and heartened to see a column in the Wall Street Journal by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of Dubai.*

In particular, there were two passages which really stood out. Specifically that "the Middle East must create 80 million new jobs in the next five years just to keep apace of [the]demographics...Fifty percent of the jobless are under the age of 25..."

That's quite a startling statistic. To put it in perspective, the Middle East needs to create six times as many jobs as can be found in Canada, a G8 nation. With the UAE being perhaps the sole expanding economy in the region, economic crisis notwithstanding, where those jobs will come from is a serious question. Unlike Indians, or even Filipinos, nationalities that are used to working abroad, it is significantly harder for young men and women from the Middle East to do the same. Visas are extremely hard to get, not to mention the fact that, as Sheikh Mohammed points out, "[s]ixty-five million adult Arabs are illiterate and two-thirds of them are women. More than 10 million Arab children between the ages of 6 and 15 are still not enrolled in any schooling, and on current trends this number will increase by 40% over the next decade." The lack of education is perhaps the single largest factor inhibiting to mobility of labor in the Middle East.

Absent massive, unprecedented economic growth region wide, there is little chance this situation can be remedied quickly. Hopefully there is a miracle on the horizon.

*In case this seems to be a strange introduction, for those of you outside of the Middle East, in the UAE, that's the correct way to introduce the Ruler of Dubai.

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