Generation in Waiting

Generation in Waiting: The Unfulfilled Promise of Young People in the Middle East

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 267
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  • Book Info
    Generation in Waiting
    Book Description:

    Young people in the Middle East (15-29 years old) constitute about one-third of the region's population. Growth rates for this age group trail only sub-Saharan Africa. This presents the region with an historic opportunity to build a lasting foundation for prosperity by harnessing the full potential of its young population. Yet young people in the Middle East face severe economic and social exclusion due to substandard education, high unemployment, and poverty. Thus the inclusion of youth is the most critical development challenge facing the Middle East today.

    A Generation in Waitingportrays the plight of young people, urging greater investment designed to improve the lives of this critical group. It brings together perspectives from the Maghreb to the Levant. Each chapter addresses the complex challenges facing young people in many areas of their lives: access to decent education, opportunities for quality employment, availability of housing and credit, and transitioning to marriage and family formation. This volume presents policy implications and sets an agenda for economic development, creating a more hopeful future for this and future generations in the Middle East.

    Selected contributors include Ragui Assaad (University of Minnesota), Brahim Boudarbat (University of Montreal), Jad Chaaban (American University in Beirut), Nader Kabbani (Syria Trust for Development), Taher Kanaan (Jordan Center for Public Policy Research and Dialogue), Djavad Salehi-Isfahani (Wolfensohn Center for Development and Virginia Tech), and Edward Sayre (University of Southern Mississippi).

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0472-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    The 2009 inauguration, and leadership transition in the United States, has brought with it the promise of new energy and a change in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Under President Barack Obama, U.S. policy in the Middle East is no longer dominated by the “war on terror.” Instead, a new relationship is being defined on the basis of mutual respect and partnership, as the president outlined in his speech to the Muslim world at Cairo University in June 2009. Along with the traditional focus on diplomacy and defense, this partnership promises to elevate economic development in the Middle...

  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    Successful and progressive societies are defined by their ability to improve the quality of life for every successive generation. The Middle East faces a momentous challenge to ensure that today’s youth and children, the largest segment of the population, have more opportunities than their parents and are able to contribute fully to the region’s stability and prosperity.

    Over the last four decades, many countries in the region have made impressive human development gains, paving the way for healthier and more educated generations. However, rather than emerging as an empowered generation, too many young lives in the countries discussed here are...

    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The Middle East has been characterized as being in the grip of two great games.¹ In the first game, the interests of Middle Eastern nations and western powers intersect to shape geopolitics. The second game—less visible in our daily headlines—involves people and governments trying to advance economic development. But today, a third game, even less well understood, is being played out in the Middle East. This is thegenerational gamein which the largest youth cohort in the Middle East’s modern history is striving for prosperity and thereby shaping politics.

    In recent years, the Middle East has come...

  8. 1 Generation in Waiting: An Overview of School to Work and Family Formation Transitions
    (pp. 11-38)

    Representing the largest birth cohort in the history of the Middle East, the young men and women born between 1980 and 1995 are now coming of age and entering adulthood. Today, more than 100 million individuals between the ages of 15 and 29 live in the Middle East, up from less than 67 million in 1990. They make up 30 percent of the region’s population and nearly 47 percent of its working-age population. Much has been promised to this generation in terms of better quality of life and greater prosperity; however, many of these promises remain elusive.

    As the Middle...

  9. 2 Beyond Statism: Toward a New Social Contract for Iranian Youth
    (pp. 39-66)

    Youth in Iran have become a major political and social force. Accounting for nearly 40 percent of the voting-age population, young people demonstrated their importance most recently in the 2009 presidential election by playing an instrumental role in the campaign of reformist Mir Hossein Moussavi and, in the days and weeks following the election, by demonstrating in the streets of Tehran and other large urban areas to protest the announced victory of the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This trend of youth political activism is not new: young Iranians were reportedly an influential force in the landslide victories of the reformist president...

  10. 3 Rising Expectations and Diminishing Opportunities for Egypt’s Young
    (pp. 67-94)

    Egypt, like most countries in the Middle East, is experiencing a “youth bulge”—a period in which the proportion of youth in the population increases significantly compared with other age groups. Currently, around 28 percent of the Egyptian population is between the ages of 15 and 29.¹ In the coming decade, this young generation will be the biggest group in Egypt’s long history to make its way to adulthood, representing both an opportunity and a challenge. As the country’s youth population reaches working age, its ratio to the older and younger nonworking populations will rise, constituting a “demographic gift” that...

  11. 4 In Search of a Future: The Struggle of Young Palestinians
    (pp. 95-119)

    Youth in the West Bank and Gaza Strip experience many of the same challenges faced by youth throughout the region, but from their earliest years they are also confronted with a unique political situation. The conflict between Palestinians and Israel influences every aspect of the lives of young people in the West Bank and Gaza. It defines how, when, and where they go to school; their ability to find work and secure jobs that match their skills; and expectations for, and the form of, political participation in which they are involved.¹ Finally, the political situation has even affected fertility rates,...

  12. 5 The Impact of Instability and Migration on Lebanon’s Human Capital
    (pp. 120-141)

    The number of young men and women aged 15 to 29 in Lebanon is currently estimated at almost 1 million people, roughly a quarter of the country’s population. The large proportion of young people, resulting from the demographic transition through which Lebanon is passing, is high but is still lower than that found in other Arab countries where the proportion is almost 30 percent. This youth bulge represents a demographic gift because a high number of young people offers a solid human capital base on which economies can grow and prosper—provided that a positive enabling institutional and economic environment...

  13. 6 The Disconnect between Education, Job Growth, and Employment in Jordan
    (pp. 142-165)

    The prospects of young Jordanians—perhaps more than any other age group—are being shaped by the interplay between Jordan’s exposure to myriad economic and political shocks and the effectiveness with which the country adjusts to these powerful changes. The economic volatility evident in the country has been driven largely by Jordan’s dependence on workers’ remittances and foreign aid. Furthermore, events such as the 1990–91 Gulf War, the second Palestinian intifada of 2000, the repercussions of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent occupation have fundamentally changed the economy and...

  14. 7 Moroccan Youth in an Era of Volatile Growth, Urbanization, and Poverty
    (pp. 166-188)

    Young Moroccans, coming of age at a time when their country is undergoing rapid economic and social change, face challenges unknown to previous generations. Since gaining independence in 1956, and especially during the past quarter century, Morocco has striven to achieve sustainable and diversified economic growth. The country’s most persistent domestic challenges include improving living conditions in its urban centers, reducing poverty, and creating enough jobs for the millions of unemployed and underemployed.

    Young men and women are at the epicenter of these economic and social challenges. While education policies have ensured that an increasing number of young Moroccans are...

  15. 8 Tapping into the Economic Potential of Young Syrians during a Time of Transition
    (pp. 189-210)

    As Syria moves toward becoming a net oil importer in the near future, the country is undergoing extensive economic reforms to transition toward a “social market” economy. The government is introducing elements of a new social contract that relies less on state intervention and more on private sector solutions. On the “market” side, the government has removed barriers to private sector entry for most industries; permitted the development of private secondary schools, universities, and banks; and introduced legislation to reform the country’s rigid labor laws. The “social” emphasis of the reform effort involves maintaining a central regulatory role for the...

  16. 9 Addressing Yemen’s Twin Deficits: Human Development and Natural Resources
    (pp. 211-239)

    With over 75 percent of its population under age 25, Yemen’s population is one of the youngest in the Middle East. And unlike many countries in the region where the youth bulge has already peaked, the share of youth in Yemen’s total population will not begin to diminish for many years to come. Under the right conditions, a large youth population can foster economic growth and stimulate social development, but Yemen’s challenge of turning its youthful population into a demographic dividend is daunting because of deficits in human development and natural resources, deteriorating economic and political conditions, and social and...

  17. 10 Looking Ahead: Making Markets and Institutions Work for Young People
    (pp. 240-252)

    Countries in the Middle East are experiencing a demographic transition, characterized by an increasing share of youth in the total population. While this change in the age structure has enhanced economic growth in other parts of the world, in Middle Eastern countries it has led to high unemployment and social exclusion. This is one of the most critical economic development challenges facing the Middle East in the twenty-first century. By addressing the disadvantages of young people today, Middle Eastern countries can lay the foundation for greater long-term equity across income and gender.

    The eight Middle Eastern economies presented in this...

  18. About the Authors
    (pp. 253-258)
  19. Index
    (pp. 259-268)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-270)