Middle East and North Africa:
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More than 28% of the population of the Middle East is aged between 15 and 29. Representing over 108 million young people, this is the largest number of young people to transition to adulthood in the region’s history. Young people 15 to 24 constitute approximately 20% of the populations in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. In the Arab countries’ populations, young people are the fastest growing segment, some 60% of the population is under 25 years old, making this one of the most youthful regions in the world, with a median age of 22 years compared to a global average of 28.
In the Middle East, educational enrollment rates are high, with nearly universal access at the primary level and nearly 70% enrollment at the secondary level. Between 1965 and 2003, Middle Eastern governments spent an average of approximately 5% of their GDP on education. Despite increased access, the quality of education remains low. Internet usage stands at 13.8 per 100 people, with young people more likely to be users than their elders.
Further, youth currently constitute an estimated 51% of total unemployed in the region, according to the latest UNDP Arab Human Development Report 2009, which shows a raise from 44% in 2005, according to Millennium Development Goals in the Arab Region 2005 Report. All countries in the region have witnessed an increase in youth unemployment rates between 1991 and 2004 with the exception of the Mashreq countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine). For example, in Syria, unemployment rates among youth (ages 15 to 24) are more than six times those of adults. In addition, duration of unemployment for new graduates is extremely long, lasting up to three years in countries such as Morocco and Iran.
In the Middle East, marriage and family formation is a major rite of passage for young people. In the region today, nearly 50% of men between the ages of 25 and 29 are unmarried. Financial costs associated with marriage (housing, furniture, wedding ceremonies, etc.) and a lack of economic means contribute to the postponement of family formation.
More information for this region can be accessed from the World Bank’s World Development Report 2007, “Development and the Next Generation” – regional highlights: http://go.worldbank.org/DE5YGZ1A80.