Unemployment Paradox in the MENA Region

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  • High and increasing unemployment rates in the MENA region are a concern for governments and economy.
  • We have at our hands a peculiar situation where we lack employment opportunities, as well as a lack of qualified candidates who can meet specific job requirements
  • This article deals with the common employment paradoxes faced by employers in the region.

One of the challenges that face any economy is its unemployment percentage and the MENA region is not an exception; where these rates are not only high…But unfortunately increasing!

Unlike most people claims; unemployment is not mainly attributed to unavailability of employment opportunities, but surprisingly enough, employers are also facing the challenge of scarce caliber resources who can meet minimum requirements of a specific job. Companies need workers who can do their jobs perfectly or at least do the minimum requirements needed for the job to be productive; while employees are mainly focusing on job rewards.

Therefore there is a paradox between the 2 claims, one which states that the market does not have enough jobs and the other that claims that many jobs can’t find candidates to fill! Well actually both are true!

While investors are not investing enough (Development and Money), also workers are not working hard enough!

The following chart shows different unemployment rates across the global regions (2014-Q2):

Common Unemployment Paradoxes

A) Attitude vs. Skills:

  • Most employers are eager to realize positive performance results and therefore seek in their interviews to hire employees with “technical” experience with low focus on attitude and behavior; thus leaving a lot of “Inexperienced” or “fresh graduate” candidates unemployed. The more we have employers like these, the higher will be the salaries of experienced workers and the lower will be the chance for potential good calibers.

  • MNC expansions through the past 2 decades has dramatically influenced the general market trend for people development in 2 ways:

  • Exported good candidates who are seeking better packages (Especially Managers) to local companies.

  • They directly forced their competitors to provide people with better development path and financial packages to avoid high employee turn-over.

  • MNC invasion was not all so good also; some employees would just leave because they are perceived below expectations at their former companies where the performance bar is really high, while they know they can get a better salary and job title at another organization that is not so very much sophisticated! This was one of the reasons for salary bubbles raising the gap between different company ranks.

B) Able to Work vs. Willing to Work:

  • While some people can’t find a job, some others are not willing to work unless in very specific jobs or even unwilling to work at all!

  • Some insist on finding jobs in their specific education field, while others are not willing to work unless with a specific salary or a specific position.

  • The main issue is not the perception itself, but rather their willingness to improve their knowledge, skills and attitude… Some workers just don’t and won’t upgrade any of those three, but still are demanding specific jobs that can’t be matched by their current set of skills and will (Most probably) stay unemployed!

C) Gap between Education and Actual Required Market Experience:

  • While employers are still valuing technical and functional skills, millions of fresh graduates are out in the market getting frustrated from the amount of job applications and interviews replied to negatively or even none replied to at all! I always face this question from frustrated young people “How can I have experience if nobody is willing to provide me with this experience without having prior experience?!”

D) Perceived vs. Actual Skills:

  • Another paradox that invaded the job market is how a candidate perceives the skills required to perform adequately in a given job. If an employee is given a negative feedback from his / her direct boss, most commonly they will seek another job where they are perceived as better candidates to fill the required positions

E) Low Caliber:

  • It is very common that company X is looking for a senior manager and 100 people apply for the job, then the number reaches 10 candidates after the initial screening and then 2 at the final interview them 0 accepted, then company X looks for a specific senior manager to hire later by direct head hunting.

What we are facing currently is a multifaceted “unordinary” issue; therefore the solution also should be “unordinary”

Real change of: Perception – Attitude – Creative Solutions.


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