The pot boils over: development lessons from Tunisia and Egypt Alasdair McWilliam Global development heal

The causes of unrest across Egypt and Tunisia, and the growing trouble in the Arab world, are complex, though observers attribute the situation to two major dynamics youth unemployment and lack of political voice. But neither of these is included in prominent measures of development such as the MDGs.

Tertiary enrolment school leavers going to higher education in Egypt has risen from 14% to 28% since 1990, and in Tunisia from 8% to 34%. Egyptian high school graduates account for 42% of the workforce, but 80% of the unemployed. According to the global employment trends from the International Labour Organisation, Arab countries need to generate more than 50 million jobs in the next decade just to stabilise employment. These conditions have created a large body of disaffected youth, a boiling pot of frustration that is now spilling over at governments that have iled to provide employment opportunities.

Actually if you check the top 10% they get a third of the economic pie.

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Middle East correspondents from the Guardian, Der Spiegel and Le Monde report from around the region on reaction to protests in Egypt

About a third of Africans live in urban areas, but by 2030 this will increase to half; and more than 60% of Africas population is under 25, and that will rise to 75% by 2015. About 7.2% of the regions youth is unemployed and an additional 46.9% is either underemployed or inactive.

The reasons for unrest arent all economic. Increases in literacy and education, alongside urbanisation and the expansion of the media, have extended political consciousness and broadened demands for political participation. Despite national increases in living standards, the regions repressive, authoritarian regimes are often plagued by corruption and nepotism. Dani Rodrik, a development economist, points out that economic growth does not buy stability unless political institutions mature at the same time. This shows that widely used measures of development such as the MDGs and the HDI are, by themselves, insufficient to determine development priorities: much greater attention needs to be played to inequality, but not only inequality of income.

7.2% of young Africans unemployed, better than in Europe then? That statistic has no credibility. Most likely half of them are unemployed and the slightest miliarity with conditions in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa etc show that to be the case.

I know the data is patchy, but are you aware of recent trends in inequality across the MENA region? A number of MENA countries reduced inequality (and increased the share of income to the poorest quintile) during the 80s and 90s, but how have income distributions across the region shifted during the past 10 years? Also, how does the income distribution among MENA middle income countries compare to other MIC regions, and are they more or less equal?

ElizaTalks: World medias attention elsewhere but in IvoryCoast body count rises. Disturbing video #civ2010 RT@JulieOwono

I would read more into the latter statistic of 46.9% (underemployment). This probably better captures the large proportion of labor in the informal sector, many of which are working poor (in 2007 over 80% of the regions labour force were working poor living on less than US$2 per day). Relatively low unemployment figures of 7.2% are probably reflective of workers engaged with the formal sector, which in Sub-Saharan Africa is dwarfed by the informal sector. It should be pointed out It is difficult to survive in many African countries unless you are engaged in some form of subsistence/ income generating activity.


Egypt protests: the view from the Middle East

And that, ultimately, this must come from within.

Western backing for the old regimes in the Middle East and north Africa precludes any cosy narrative about popular uprisings

Some of the Middle Easts star performers on development indicators ce popular anger and dissatisction. So where does that leave development policy?

Such processes also pose challenges for sub-Saharan Africa. About a third of Africans live in urban areas, but by 2030 this will increase to half; and more than 60% of Africas population is under 25, and that will rise to 75% by 2015. About 7.2% of the regions youth is unemployed and an additional 46.9% is either underemployed or inactive. Many African countries have substantially increased access to education, but those economies will need to start generating skilled jobs to absorb this labour. If not, will tomorrows educated, African youth, like those in Tunisia and Egypt today, demand resolution to these grievances by force?

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The protests in Egypt and elsewhere remind me that challenging the bonds of poverty and oppression is not about economic indicators, but about extending to people the feeling that they matter. I am reminded that real big-Development comes when people awaken from fear and they can look forward to a future in which they feel secure, valued, and honored.

The gini isnt that helpful – check out the inequality indicators I used in a post (url) below.

MiddlThe pot boils over: development lessons from Tunisia and Egypt Alasdair McWilliam Global development heale East protests: Is it time for the west to come clean?

Also, theres hidden poverty I refer to in the post too – income poverty masks wider multi-dimensional poverty.

Are you sure?

Inadequate ILO terminology is also a ctor. Unemployed refers to those in the work force who do not have a job but are actively seeking work. Inactive refers to those who do not have a job and are not seeking work. However, inactive youth may not be actively seeking work because they feel they feel there is no suitable work available, even though they would accept a job if offered one.

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19 Feb 2011

Unemployment among 15- to 24-year-olds in the Middle East is the highest in the world, at more than 25%. However, about two-thirds of the regions population is now below 24 years of age. The ever-greater numbers of high school and university graduates are not being absorbed into the economy, while the private sector is not generating enough skilled positions. Employers, meanwhile, complain of poor education quality and low graduate skills.

Middle Eastern countries have had, at least until recently, one of the most equal income distributions in the world. Egypt, for example, registered a Gini coefficient (a measure of inequality) of 32 in 2005, r lower than the 47 achieved by the US in the same year. This suggests that access to gainful employment and acute inequalities in political power also need to be considered.

Therefore, to those of us in the aid industry I ask: Do we question the sources of power in Development enough in our day-to-day work? Do we acknowledge and challenge the policies and practices that marginalize and deastern health employmentemotivate people, especially local activists? In all of the seemingly mundane acts of planning, coordinating and monitoring development projects, do we acknowledge the deep and profound difference between social change and service delivery? And if the development industry, as a whole, remains divorced from this, are we missing the whole point?

However, economic inequalities within, rather than between, countries are becoming more important as the proportion of middle-income countries grow: research from the Institute of Development Studies shows there is a new bottom billion of 960 million poor people 72% of the worlds poor who live not in low, but in middle-income countries. This is a dramatic change from just two decades ago, when 93% of poor people lived in low-income countries.

This set of data may be of interest:

Whats New in Development and Why I dont have a girlfriend: talks from the Warwick Economics Summit

These are eyewatering levels of inequality for countries which are middle income countries.

A recent initiative gauging progress on the millennium development goals ranks Tunisia as joint first among 137 countries, while Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iran are ranked joint third. Similarly, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco score as top movers on the 2010 Human Development Index, a hybrid measure of income, education and health. Significant increases in living standards, as measured by the MDGs and HDI, have not satisfied citizens needs and aspirations, and this raises issues on how we conceptualise, measure and promote development.

The pot boils over: development lessons from Tunisia and Egypt Alasdair McWilliam Global development heal,A glance at recent data on development indicators reveals some striking figures about the Middle East. Far from lagging behind, many Middle East countries have made rapid progress on development, especially the broader human development areas of health and education. Even more surprising is that the countries the biggest media splash in recent weeks are, in ct, star performers.

Thanks for responding and for the figures Andy. Good point that Ginis do not tell the whole story on income distributions.

3 Feb 2011

Hi Alasdair, interesting post! Thanks too for mentioning the IDS work.

These issues are not unique to the Middle East. But the histories of countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria demonstrate that as societies transform and urbanise, aspirations grow and people expect more of their governments.

Across the region the top 20% get half of the economic pie…

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