Monday, February 18, 2013

Tunisia’s Problem with Unemployment

There is universal agreement that unemployment (particular youth unemployment) and poverty played a significant role in the Arab Spring. It is said that high levels of youth unemployment and economic problems prompted civil unrest and dissatisfaction with the government, which gave many young people the time to network and organize. Tunisians are arguably the best-educated people in North Africa, but Tunisia’s economy, especially in the inland regions has failed to create opportunities for those with a college degree. These central lands are economically depressed and neglected for decades by various Tunisian governments.

We should care about this issue because Tunisia may be the most promising young democracy in the region; but there is a universal agreement that if economic development does not take place in the coming years, the country may slide toward chaos. Consequences will not only be for Tunisia, but also for Europe and beyond. The country could slide back down toward chaos because of large protests, we have learned in class that nonviolent revolutions tend to get more support and be more successful in bringing down a state. Since Tunisia youth unemployment is in shambles it is leaving individuals to gather and organize and network to act against the problem. We should also care about this issue because it has to do with indirect diffusion effects that we have talked about in some of our readings. The youth is also using their spare time to network or gather information from outside sources of the state to bring motive to protest in order to act upon the problem of unemployment.

To help solve this problem of youth unemployment, student exchange programs between Tunisia and the U.S. have been thought of that are established at business schools or other universities business programs in both countries. If successful, they could be adapted to other countries that have been changed by the Arab Spring, such as Egypt and Morocco. This style of program should work both ways, with Tunisian students studying in the United States and U.S students in Tunisia. Students from both sides would be centered on their potential for designing and carrying out an effective business project. For example assisting in running a local small business back home. The benefits of this program is that students would be able to develop and practice business techniques that would prove valuable in their careers and small businesses would be given interns with the drive to improve their business. Also the development of such activities would improve the economy of the depressed areas, and would improve the prospects for American trade relations in the region. So in conclusion this program could help bring more expertise and skills to the area while improving the economy and creating more jobs for the younger youth. 

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  1. I think it would also be extremely important to focus investment in the inner regions. Along with sending students to the US, their business education should be specified to what resources could be used in these areas of Tunisia. Convincing investors that the regions are ready to be productive and that the people have the knowledge to operate businesses is the next step in cultivating the inner regions of Tunisia.

  2. In the chapter we read on Tunisia, I recall a lot of talk about how highly educated Tunisia's youth population is, and how these well-educated Tunisians are still unable to get a job. So I am not sure that educational programs, even if they are focused on business, would do much to fix the youth unemployment problem. Rather, I think Soma's point is right about the importance of investment, because Tunisia really needs to focus on expanding their economy in order to provide jobs for their well-educated populace. Opening up avenues for FDI should be a top priority for Tunisia if they are eventually going to achieve some true political stability, or else I think we'll see youth protests spring up all over the country again.

  3. The idea of exchange students between the U.S. and Tunisia is very interesting. I am a member of Aiesec—an international organization that exchanges students and graduates with paid internships abroad the world—I have some direct experience with this process. I spoke about this organization in class when I talked about the International Business Club. We have just received an exchange student from Tunisia to the Aiesec location in Boulder. The fact is that there are not a lot of Americans who want to go to Tunisia right now, or from any OECD for that matter, this is one challenge to the exchange option. While I think these are great dreams, they are not sustainable. There are just not enough opportunities for enough people. The unemployment rate is too high, too many graduate in Tunisia without work, we can’t exchange even a small fraction of them. Also, this is a problem all over the region not just in Tunisia. The entire region is having serious problems right now. I believe the biggest is bad governance.

    FDI is one option, but I also think that the government that was democratically elected is part of the problem. The Ennahda took control because their party was banned and the people thought they would be great, not because they had much to offer the people. It is believed that they had a role in the assassination of Chokri Belaid, the economy has been on the decline, radical Islamism violence is at an all-time high, and the people keep expecting more and more. This is not an easy problem to solve; I don’t think there is any one correct answer at this time. Instead everything should be done from FDI, to exchange programs, to the installation of functional secular political systems, and increased freedoms.