Youth across the Middle East and North Africa face many obstacles to their full social and economic inclusion. However, the Middle East Youth Initiative (MEYI) believes that with the right policies and an enabling environment, these youth can be a source of regional economic prosperity and positive social change. In short, they are a ‘demographic gift’, a working-aged population that outnumbers those below and above working age by the largest margin in the region’s history. In helping to most effectively translate this gift into meaningful youth inclusion, and substantive regional change, MEYI’s research explores five important aspects of youth social and economic inclusion, five pathways to inclusion:
Education: Few regions invest more in the education of their young than the Middle East. Yet, in most countries in the region, the quality of education remains concerning and greater access to education has not led to greater economic opportunities for many of the region’s citizens.
Employment: The Middle East and North Africa has the highest youth unemployment rate of any region in the world. The causes of this dilemma are varied and while youth seek to work, many are not finding employment options available to them.
Marriage: Marriage and family formation are important milestones for young people as they transition to adulthood in the Middle East. Today however, due to economic hardship and the financial costs associated with marriage, many young people remain unmarried.
Housing and Credit: While youth need credit to start a business, buy a house, or pay the initial start-up costs of forming a family, this need has gone largely unmet in the region, as many youth lack collateral, job income, or reputation capital helpful to obtain loans.
Civic Participation: While youth have shown themselves interested in shaping the future of their communities, there remain few formal avenues and institutions for youth to expand their voice and translate it into positive changes for their communities.