Economic Growth

Language: English

The volatile security situation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains a major challenge to private sector growth and development. At the same time, the region has a strong appetite for business development services, job creation, and youth employment activities. USAID’s Middle East Bureau is partnering with governments and the private sector to create strong economies and expand private sector growth to provide more employment opportunities and strengthen the foundation upon which these societies can build to reach their development goals.

In the years since Arab Spring protests sparked by frustration and impatience with limited economic opportunities, the region has yet to deliver the supply of jobs and improved livelihoods hoped for by so many. Less than half of the region’s working-age population is employed or in school. As a result of labor market inefficiencies, MENA has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world (28 percent), and the share of women in the workforce is less than any other region. Demographic trends compound labor market challenges. Since 2003, the region’s labor force has grown at a rate faster than any other region, but MENA’s GDP growth has failed to create significant numbers of jobs or reduce inequality.

Developing countries in the MENA region need to create six million new jobs each year – double their best efforts in recent history – just to absorb new labor market entrants. The chronic lack of mid-level jobs in the private sector has led to even higher unemployment rates among educated, middle class youth  as compared to the general population. Young women remain highly disadvantaged in terms of access to economic opportunities at any level. These challenges are fueling a sense that people in the region are in an inescapable bind, exacerbating instability and stagnating democratic transitions.

Examples of Our Work:

USAID works with partners in the region to strengthen market linkages, improve access to capital for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and support job creation through demand-driven vocational training and job matching.

We are also working to improve laws and regulations in order to promote increased investment and develop the private sector, which is crucial for expanded and equitable employment.