The Idle and Unemployed Youth in the Middle East

Unemployed youth

Project Summary

A major concern in many parts of the developing world is the large percentage of youth who are unemployed. Youth unemployment rates in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are higher than in any other region. This study aims to create a map of youth idleness and unemployment in the MENA region. The results of this study will represent the most comprehensive and up-to-date overview of youth idleness in the region.


The objective of this project is to create a map of youth idleness and unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. RAND will explore, across countries, the levels of idleness and unemployment, where they are concentrated within each country, and factors that affect their level (i.e. education levels). The study will use population projections to estimate the potential importance of the unemployed and idle youth relative to total population in 10 and 20 years from now. RAND will analyze these data to determine the potential influence of different policies (education, training, job search assistance) for curbing this problem.


RAND will collect all available data and produce indicators of the numbers and percentage of Not in Employment, Education or Training Youth (NEET) as well as sub-classifications. The research team will collect micro-data for all available Labor Force Surveys in the region. The design of these surveys share very similar traits, which will allow the team to calculate comparable statistics on NEET status, unemployment, and other classification of NEETs.

The research team will produce an analysis of where the NEET and unemployment problems are more severe. This will involve not only cross-country comparisons, but within-country regional comparisons, as well as by type of locality (i.e. urban/rural areas, city size). The study will be able to produce 10-year and 20-year projections on the size of the young NEET population in each country. This can be achieved by combining current statistics on inactivity, existing population projections, and estimates about the evolution of education and labor markets.

Potential Impact

RAND expects this study to have both direct and indirect policy impacts. The results will present the most comprehensive and up-to-date overview of youth idleness in the region, as well as the near- and medium-term implications of current trends. The study will demonstrate how the analysis of these statistics can be used to gauge the impacts of alternative policies. Results of this project may be used to create modeling tools for policy-makers in the region to estimate the impacts of policies and programs on employment.