Increasing access to early childhood education enrollment and reskilling and upskilling existing workers, are some of the ways in which governments across the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (Menap) region can help unlock opportunity for the youth over the coming two decades.
A new report from McKinsey & Company’s Middle East Office titled ‘Opportunity Youth: Imagining a bright future for the next generation’ recognises some of the systemic challenges in the Menap region, such as unemployment and gender disparity in the workplace, and offers a perspective on the biggest game-changers that can tackle them.
The report also calls for increasing openness and trade through collectively reducing trade barriers, reconsidering barriers on existing inter-regional capital movement, as well as removing movement restrictions for highly skilled workers to provide a talent pool for home-grown superstar companies. In addition, the report also highlights the importance of embracing the rise of automation and digitisation, enabling R&D ecosystems, and facilitating the best environment for entrepreneurship.
“Everyone quickly points out the challenges youth face in our region. While these challenges are real, what is most concerning is the defeatist tone underpinning these conversations – one that essentially says, ‘there’s no point in even trying’. We too, see the challenges, but we also believe that there are incredible opportunities. Youth here are as talented as youth anywhere. We believe in them, and we believe in their potential. We are committed to helping enable a bright future – and hopefully in the process creating more optimism about what lies ahead,” said Gassan Al-Kibsi, managing partner at McKinsey Middle East.
McKinsey’s report also calls for large institutions to commit to gender parity and flexible work to shape supportive environments for women. It also highlights the need for adopting a ‘Health in all Policies’, approach, pushing the adoption of virtual and digital health to boost efficiency, and inducting more than eight million healthcare service professionals over the next 20 years. Lastly, the report calls for establishing a joint recovery fund and mechanisms to help overcome the impacts of conflict as seen in other recovery countries; and enouraging governments to produce annual report cards to boost effectiveness and accountability.
Between 2020 and 2040, some 127 million young people are set to enter the labor force in the next two decades. During this time, nearly 29 million jobs are at risk of being displaced by 2030 due to automation, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. Addressing this issue through the solutions presented in the report could add an economic output of $197 billion to the region by 2040. A more integrated market in the region could ensure a region-wide GDP of approximately $3 trillion and a fair share of around 30 superstar companies.
Khalid Aljihrish, co-author of the report, said: “Even though many countries in the region, both through private and public initiatives, are undergoing impressive transformations today to broaden economic opportunities available to their youth, there is still much to be done. We hope that the ideas we share in this report help broaden the positive impact of ongoing initiatives.”
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