MENA has the largest youth population in the world, double the global average, which presents a unique opportunity for the regional economy. Despite the immense potential of the region’s youth, MENA has the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, averaging above 25% with unemployment among certain groups exceeding 60%. One of the key causes of the record high youth unemployment rates in MENA is the mismatch of skills taught in local educational institutions and the skills needed in the labor market. Social/gender divides often intensify this labor mismatch. Private-sector employers are reluctant to hire youth from marginalized socioeconomic backgrounds, and youth in turn do not trust that the system will give them a fair chance. Young women, despite attaining higher levels of education, are especially vulnerable. In some MENA countries the unemployment rate among university-educated women is three to eight times that of university-educated men.
EFE (Education For Employment), an affiliated network of locally-run non-profit organizations in MENA, was created with the mission to create job opportunities for this unemployed Arab youth. Through partnerships with the private sector and educational institutions, they are working to enhance how educational institutions prepare youth for the workforce. They provide youth with training in vocational and professional skills that are in high demand by the local labor market. To promote job creation and an alternative pathway to economic opportunity, they are also piloting youth entrepreneurship programs. With a network of six locally run affiliates in MENA, EFE partners directly with employers to identify skills needs and secure hiring commitments for graduates. EFE has placed over 4,000 young women and men in jobs within over 1,200 companies since 2006. The EFE Network is comprised of locally-run affiliates in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen, and supports organizations in Spain and the United States that support the regional affiliates.