Arab Countries Youth Population Projection
The 2009 United Nations Arab Human Development Report describes a "youth bulge" as a high proportion of 15-29 year olds relative to the adult population. Young people are the fastest growing segment in Arab countries, with youth under 25 years of age comprising about 60% of the current population. The median age of the total Arab population is 22 years, compared with the global average of 28.
The youth bulge is viewed in the research literature both negatively and positively. According to the 2009 report, the region will require 51 million new jobs by 2020 to employ youth entering the labor market. The challenge will affect women more than men, whose current unemployment rates are 31.2% compared with 25% for men. Female youth employment was as high as 59% in Jordan with male youth unemployment at 35%. Unemployment, alongside increasing urbanization, are often tied to rising extremism, causing concern for the region.
The youth bulge, however, can also be viewed as an opportunity, a chance to empower youth and harness their energy to help build neighborhoods and countries. With sufficient forethought and investment, a youthful labor force is an opportunity for economic growth and stability. Over the next 30 years, the hazards and opportunities presented by the youth bulge in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will be important tests for governments in the region and for the global development community.
Arab Human Development Report 2009:Challenges to Human Security in the Arab Countries Geneva: United Nations Development Programme and Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS), 2009, 36 (accessed March 5, 2009). Annotated by Susan Douglass.