While there are obvious differences from one country to the next, the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region is marked by profound socio-economic challenges arising from political volatility and security threats. In Lebanon and Jordan in particular, structural challenges and the influx of migrants and refugees have exacerbated existing problems of unemployment, social inclusion, and instability.
The ongoing political volatility is also hindering the creation, growth and internationalisation of new businesses. Small and medium-sized enterprises remain the backbone of the region’s economy, and there are many successful examples of entrepreneurship, yet little progress has been seen in entrepreneurial learning and SME skills development. There are also significant challenges in terms of the performance of the labour market. With the exception of Israel, activity rates are among the lowest in the world (between 40% and 50%), mainly owing to very low female participation (25% on average), which is a huge loss of human resource potential. Unemployment ranges from 10% to 25%, and is persistently twice as high among women and young people. The phenomenon of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) is growing. NEETs represent around 30% of young people aged between 15 and 24 in Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Palestine and Tunisia, and 20% in Lebanon. High NEET rates and inactivity early in life have a negative impact on employability, future earnings and access to quality jobs.
Action is required to increase the employability of the workforce, reduce skills shortages and connect jobseekers with employers. Long-term political stability arises from supporting human capital development for social and economic growth and the ETF supports the promotion of youth employment and skills development to this end, promoting and reinforcing skills and VET governance by strengthening the social dialogue around skills and VET policies, reinforcing the capacity of local actors. Social inclusion is a fundamental issue in the region; vocational curricula must reinforce the development of key competences as well as strong basic skills for all, including immigrants and refugees.
The work of the ETF in the region therefore lays strong emphasis on promoting entrepreneurship and tackling youth unemployment by promoting job creation in the private sector. The alleviation of skills mismatches means assisting governments to devise policies and strategies to reform education systems, so that training meets the real needs of employers. Work-based learning is also to the fore.