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Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Middle East faces jobs challenge
Palestinian farm workers
The Palestinian jobless rate is currently 40%
The Middle East needs to create almost 50 million new jobs in the next 10 years just to keep pace with the consequences of the region's rapid population growth, the World Bank has said.

And a further 6.5 million a year are needed simply to cut the region's 20% average unemployment rate by half.

According to a report presented by two of the Bank's senior economists to the fourth Mediterranean Development Forum in Jordan, the 1990s were almost a "lost decade" from the point of view of employment.

"Perhaps the greatest single issue facing the economies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the challenge of equipping its people with good jobs," the report said.

Stubbornly high

Despite attempted reforms aimed at stabilising the economy of the region, joblessness has stayed stubbornly high.

According to senior Bank economists Jennifer Keller and former Tunisian planning minister Mustafa Nabli, growth on average is well below the levels needed to create new jobs.

While the region's economies have been expanding at an average rate of 3.6% a year, that is barely faster than the 3% gain in population levels.

The figures are made worse by the 50% unemployment rate in Iraq, while the second highest level is 40% in the Palestinian territories.

In Algeria, Libya, Yemen and Syria the level is about 30%, with 20% in Lebanon, Morocco, Iran and Tunisia.

The best off are Egypt and Jordan, each of which suffers an unemployment rate of 15%, while the oil-rich Gulf states have jobless rates of about 10%.

See also:

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