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Digital Romance


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Created by Tom Profit | February 6, 2015
Version 1 | February 6, 2015
Cost: 50000 | Feasibility: Complex | Reproducible: No

Summary

But there's nothing inevitable about a youth bulge producing a growth dividend. Benefits have to be earned. Without the right policies spurring education and job opportunities, they won't materialize. The Middle East got education right: college and university enrollment in Egypt has doubled since 1990, for example, and Cairo University alone has about 200,000 students. But a sclerotic private sector and hidebound institutions have failed to create sufficient jobs for graduates. Unemployment among 15-to-24-year-olds in the Middle East and North Africa is above 25%. And despite the fact that in many countries in the region there are more young women than young men in college, few women are active in the workforce, especially after marriage.

But there's nothing inevitable about a youth bulge producing a growth dividend. Benefits have to be earned. Without the right policies spurring education and job opportunities, they won't materialize. The Middle East got education right: college and university enrollment in Egypt has doubled since 1990, for example, and Cairo University alone has about 200,000 students. But a sclerotic private sector and hidebound institutions have failed to create sufficient jobs for graduates. Unemployment among 15-to-24-year-olds in the Middle East and North Africa is above 25%. And despite the fact that in many countries in the region there are more young women than young men in college, few women are active in the workforce, especially after marriage.

In the Middle East, then, young people had nowhere to go but the street. Luckily, once there, they confounded skeptics by favoring ringtones over riots. Young, educated and tech-savvy, they helped foment peaceful revolutions. Think of Tahrir Square as Egypt's Woodstock — only cleaner and with a purpose.

Political scientist Chris Blattman of Yale suggests that it isn't just in the Middle East that the link between youth and political violence might be weaker than many once thought. Around the world, he notes, "the people who riot or rebel are poor, unemployed young men... The problem is that the people who don't riot are also poor, unemployed young men. Most of the population is poor and unemployed and young. It's not clear that the poorer and less employed are more violent." It is clear, though, that if the youth demonstrations lead to more responsive governments that focus on creating jobs, the region may at last start seeing a demographic dividend.

That's just the start. Behind the youth bulge is more good news. Falling fertility and mortality rates are great outcomes in their own right. They mean that the probability that a woman in the Middle East or North Africa will go through the pain of watching one of her children die before its fifth birthday has fallen from 85% in 1960 to just about 10% today. That's still too high, but no parent could call it anything other than wonderful progress.

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  • Tom Profit
    Tom Profit has published idea.
    Digital Romance
    • February 6, 2015
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