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The workforce challenge is among the most complex and urgent socio-economic and political challenges facing the Middle East and North Africa today. The growth of large and youthful populations is colliding with the constraints of slow growth and investment, which makes it impossible for regional markets to absorb surplus labor. This report presents an analysis of workforce development drawing from primary research conducted in Jordan, Tunisia, and Oman and it breaks down the problem into a set of supply and demand side factors. On the supply side, the education system is poorly equipped to impart essential skills demanded by the market e.g. critical thinking, teamwork, oral and written presentation. The tracking system further distorts the output of specializations in higher education by making the career path dependent on test results. Women are also accessing higher education in record numbers but their participation in the workforce remains low, representing a loss in human capital investment. On the demand side, markets remain too small and SMEs face barriers to expansion, while the private sector is concentrated in low output micro-enterprises with few employees and few prospects to grow into larger enterprises.


Middle East Program

The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  Read more

The MENA Workforce Development Initiative

The Middle East and North Africa Workforce Development Initiative (MENA-WDI) aims to assess both current and projected challenges facing the region in developing the workforce and the implications for peace and stability.   Read more