Leading Gulf Businessman Says Gender Gap Costing Middle East

Bring more of our Arab women into the workforce, invest in micro-infrastructure projects and get the private sector evolved more in training job seekers who are young. Those were the opinions of one of the leading entrepreneurs in the Gulf region for expanding the economies in the Middle East and combating the widespread unemployment amongst the youth.

Decision-makers have long seemed to by paralyzed by the size of the troubled region’s economic nightmares, but attitudes are changing, said Omar Kutayba Alghanim, the co-chairman of a regional World Economic Forum seminar and a leader amongst the private sector’s efforts to tackle unemployment amongst youth.

The Middle East as well as North Africa has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, with over 29% of youth not working, which is 2% higher than a decade ago.

Unemployment is very high particularly amongst the young women partly because of constraints placed on them due to traditional societies in a number of parts of the Middle East.

Alghanim said bringing additional women into the region’s workforce would dramatically spur on economic growth.

Citing the figures released by the International Monetary Fund, the entrepreneur said the Middle East gender gap is three times larger than that of most developing economies. He added that if the gap were narrowed only one-third, the GDP in the region would grow by $1 trillion per year or about 6%.

Alghanim is a former investment banker and now is the head of Alghanim Industries, one of the biggest companies that are privately held in the region.

Alghanim did not express how the cultural constraints could be overcome, but he suggested the changes needed to be gradual.

One of the youth unemployment causes is the disconnect between the skills acquired by young people in school and universities, where the learning by rote is the norm, and what the modern privates businesses are looking for in possible employees.

Alghanim added that the private sector needs to become more involved with training young people looking for work and to encourage all future entrepreneurs.

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