Queen Rania calls for 'regional renaissance' on Arab jobs

Arabs too preoccupied with technology and social media rather than education and entrepreneurship
Queen Rania calls for 'regional renaissance' on Arab jobs
Jordans Queen Rania.
By Courtney Trenwith
Sun 26 May 2013 02:34 PM

Jordan's Queen Rania has called for a "regional renaissance" to deal with the Arab world's burgeoning unemployment crisis.

During a speech at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, Queen Rania said education had slipped from the regional conscious and no longer seemed a priority despite the need to find jobs for tens of millions of unemployed Arabs.

"There can be no excuses anymore, we must do better,” she said. “Our children deserve it, our young people demand it and our region depends on it.

“A new vision for Arab employment isn’t about piecemeal change, those luxuries don’t exist anymore. The new vision for Arab employment requires a regional renaissance.”

Such change would create a long lasting solution to the problem, she said.

"We can do it with more innovation, openness and flexibility and new partnerships but it can't be done without political will and that doesn’t just come from the top,” Queen Rania, a long-term advocate for education and youth, said.

"That's what a real renaissance is, that's what the right kind of renaissance delivers: true change that lasts for all seasons. It starts with governments and the private sector forging closer ties and ministers of education, labour and finance finding synergies with CEOs and employers to create tangible relationship with schools, skills and the marketplace.

"In an ideal world, schools would feed employers with bright and hungry young minds, while employers would partner with schools to inspire entrepreneurship and innovation from which they would ultimately benefit. But our Arab world is not an ideal world."

Her Highness said the region had become too pre-occupied with technology and social media at the expense of schools.

“Isn’t it ironic how most of us in the Arab world want to carry the latest phones, have the trendiest gadgets [and] stay ahead of the curve with social media networks, while our schools and what we learn in them lags conspicuously behind?” she said.

“Why is that? The answer differs from country to country – from a shortage of resources and political stability to languishing bureaucracy and apathy.”

Queen Rania said employers were dissatisfied with the quality of graduates, while graduates were unhappy with their skills and educators were often not appropriately skilled to be teaching what was needed.

"The education that young people have is all but obsolete."

Numerous labour organisations such as the World Bank had suggested a "redesign of the value chain" was needed to place greater emphasis on "soft skills" such as creative thinking, team work and communication skills, she said.

Students were too often confined to the classroom rather than learning through life experiences.

"What you know matters less than what you can do with what you know," Queen Rania said.

During the panel discussion, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, the UAE's largest private oil and gas company, Majid Jafar, said the Arab Spring and resulting transition of governments had exacerbated unemployment in those countries.

"What was a chronic problem ... has now become an acute crisis," he said. 

"Nothing has been done about the underlying cause of the Arab Spring and polls show jobs is number one."

A recent poll of youth in the UAE found a high paying job was their number one priority.

"Failure to employ our youth is not just lower growth today; it threatens our tomorrow," Jafar said.

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) CEO Mohammed Al Mady said opening up borders between Arab countries for the transfer of labour instead of bringing in labour from foreign nations such as in South East Asia would help ease unemployment.

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