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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Dec 28, 2010

High Unemployment: A Ticking Bomb in the Arab World

The recent demonstration that started in Mezel Bouzaiene in Tunisia was triggered by the high unemployment rate, especially among college graduates. A young college graduate who was prevented from selling fruit and vegetables because he did not have a permit to do so committed suicide by setting himself on fire. Another man electrocuted himself because of the unemployment situation. These desperate acts fueled protest movements in other places including the Tunisian capital. The Tunisian government security attempted to control the protestors, which lead to clashes with the police resulting in the arrests of hundreds of people and the deaths of two protestors and the wounding of many more. The protesters were carrying signs criticizing government corruption, lack of democracy and freedom of expression. Live ammunition was used against the protestors so that the demonstration would not get out of hand. Tunisia was experiencing demonstrations in many areas of the country, which has been going on for at least 10 days this month (December 2010).

This massive protest was not the first one. Last August, the southern region of Tunisia experienced protests against the government, which were triggered by increasing unemployment and poverty rates.

Tunisian security prevented journalists from reporting the turn of events in order to control the situation and not let it get out of hand. Nevertheless, the news was spread through Facebook and cell phones by witnesses who saw what happened. The Tunisian government tried to justify the killings and jailings of young Tunisian people as necessary to prevent destruction to public and private property. In response to the shouting and signs stating, “They have the right to have a job” the government publicly announced financial aid and money to develop projects that will create jobs in some of the most depressed regions of Tunisia.

Tunisia has one of the lowest birth rates in the Arab world due to successful family planning and birth control programs that were implemented a few decades ago. Also, Tunisia’s economy has been growing at 7 – 8% per year and the country also has a better education system than the majority of Arab states. The crux of the problem is based on the fact that in any society when the young population is provided with a decent education but not enough jobs, they become a walking ticking bomb waiting to explode at any moment. This is what is happening in Tunisia and what will happen again as long as the unemployment rate is high, especially among college graduates of higher academic institutions.

In previous posts I referred to the Economic World Bank Report of the Arab world in which it noted that the Arab states need to create 100 million jobs during the next 15-20 years to meet the needs of the young people entering the job market. For example, the most populated states in the Arab world, like Egypt with 85 million people, need to create at least one million new jobs to the more than 750,000 young people entering the employment market each year.

It also should be noted that the unemployment is affecting more than 20 million people in the Arab world. This situation also increased poverty rates, which I will estimate to cover nearly 50% of the total population in the Arab world.

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