Arab world sees highest unemployment rate

With the global economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic slowed by the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, the Arab world has been hit particularly hard.

 BEDOUIN WOMEN seek employment via Rahat’s Rayan center, focusing on the integration of previously unemployed women from Bedouin society in the Negev into the workforce (Illustrative).  (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
BEDOUIN WOMEN seek employment via Rahat’s Rayan center, focusing on the integration of previously unemployed women from Bedouin society in the Negev into the workforce (Illustrative).
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

The Arab region registered a 12 percent unemployment rate in 2022 which is the highest in the world," according to the latest United Nations (UN) survey on employment rates.

The UN's Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the Arab Region breaks down the current and projected economic conditions of the Arab world. The survey is organized primarily into five sections: Natural resource commodities, Macroeconomic outlook in the Arab region, Fiscal situation and debt in Arab countries, Social developments and gender dynamics, and Prospects.

"As countries worldwide are still recovering from the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine is resulting in severe implications for the global economy. It is driving energy and commodity prices up, and threatening food security in many parts of the world," the survey notes.

The Arab world has experienced this first-hand, but not all of these countries are facing the same economic circumstances. The severity and quality of the economic results of the pandemic and the war largely depend on the specific economy of any given Arab country.

Also relevant are the kind of financial ties each country has with Russia and Ukraine. The authors of the survey, led by Ahmed Moummi, write, "some Arab countries have benefited from spikes in energy prices, others have suffered from rising energy costs, food supply shortages, and drops in both tourism and international aid inflows."

 LOCAL EMPLOYMENT bureau: Network, network, network. (credit: FLASH90) LOCAL EMPLOYMENT bureau: Network, network, network. (credit: FLASH90)

Things are expected to improve

Some things are expected to improve all around though. After enormous inflation in 2022, rates are "projected to drop to 7.8 and 4.5 percent in 2023 and 2024, respectively," according to the survey. Additionally, while external factors such as the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war may affect this, GDP across the Arab world is supposed to grow by 4.5 percent and 3.4 percent in 2023 and 2024, respectively as well. 

Unfortunately for the Arab world, it still has a long way to go. For instance, the poverty rate has risen beyond previous projections to dizzying heights. "More than one-third of the region’s population, or 35.3 percent, live under the national poverty threshold." The poverty rate is now expected to continue to rise, again, despite previous projections.

Additionally, in other sectors, such as gender equality, progress in the Arab world is lagging. "The 2022 Global Gender Gap Index shows that the region continues to have the highest share of the worst-performing countries in the Index among the world’s regions... [there remains] a gap of 37.05 percent between the two genders. According to the World Economic Forum, the timeframe to close this gap in the Arab region is more than 115 years," according to the survey.

Additionally, perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey revealed that female employment remains very low. Less than 20 percent of women participate in the labor force.