Education key to reducing youth unemployment in the Gulf region

Tue Oct 01 08:47:00 UTC 2013

Pearson, the world’s largest education company, welcomes the findings of a new report from the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD), which examines the relationship between education, employment and earnings.

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The 2013 Education at a Glance report found that 15- to 29-year-olds have been hit particularly hard by the global recession, with unemployment amongst this group averaging 16 per cent in OECD countries. This international trend is reflected in the Gulf region, where youth unemployment rates are also higher than overall unemployment rates.

Pearson’s Regional Director for Qualifications, Mark Andrews, believes that education can play a role in reversing the youth unemployment trend in the region. Mr Andrews points to the findings of the OECD report that education has a huge impact on employability, and that the global economic crisis has strengthened this impact even further. He says:

“Research Pearson has undertaken in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia demonstrates the link between an individual’s education level and their chances of finding meaningful, well-paid work. Anecdotal evidence from local employers shows there are many positions in the region that cannot be filled because applicants for these positions do not have the requisite skills. This comes at a time when youth unemployment rates in the region are at record highs. Therefore we can assume that by better equipping young job seekers with the skills and qualifications in demand by employers, the youth unemployment rate can be reduced.”

In 2012, Pearson undertook a massive international project entitled the Learning Curve to better understand the factors that contribute to a country’s educational performance and effectiveness of its workforce. It is hoped that the Learning Curve research will help governments and education providers make more informed decisions about where to best invest resources to produce better outcomes for both individuals and wider society.  

The Learning Curve report indicated that, although notoriously difficult to quantify, governments in most countries recognise a link between the knowledge and skills with which young people enter the workforce and long-term economic competitiveness. Education seems to correlate with a host of personal benefits, from longer life to higher income. At a national level, too, education and income appear to go together. Finding the type of education that leads to the best economic outcomes, however, is far from straightforward.

Mr Andrews is quick to point out that there is no single solution for better labour market outcomes, and that the type of education an individual receives can have an effect on their employability.

“Our industry consultation and statistical research has also shown us that there is a wide gap between the number of young people graduating with vocational qualifications and the needs of employers across a number of industries including hospitality and tourism, construction, retail and telecommunications. This is, in a large part, due to the negative perception vocational education has in this region. However, this perception needs to change if we want to reduce youth unemployment here, and lessen the skills gap. What many people do not appreciate is a vocational qualification can lead to a high salary and job security.”

The OECD’s Education at a Glance report also found the role that strong vocational qualifications can play in enhancing an individual’s employment prospects. The study found that countries with a higher than average proportion of graduates from vocational programmes were able to keep the increases in unemployment rates among this age group to below 8 per cent, while countries where less than 25 per cent of young adults graduate from vocational education saw increases in unemployment rates of 12 per cent.

Mr Andrews says that there are lessons to be learnt from the OECD report for the Gulf region.

“Countries all around the world are trying hard to overcome the challenges brought on by the global recession. One key lesson we have learnt from the economic crisis is that new, innovative, educational solutions will help young people enter the workplace more easily and contribute more effectively. A first class vocational qualification gives learners the skills they need for career success in the 21st century, and vocational education can also help economies and countries recover from the severe economic stresses of recent years.”

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