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TUNISIA: Dependence on Europe fuels unemployment crisis and protests


The recent suicide of an unemployed 24-year-old man in Tunisia -- who electrocuted himself by touching a high-voltage electrical pole after shouting "no for misery, no for unemployment" — and the ensuing unrest are signs of the frustration and despair felt by the country's youth as Tunisia's economy slows.

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[Editor's note: Analysts of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are included among contributors to Babylon & Beyond. Carnegie is renowned for its political, economic and social analysis of the Middle East. The views represented are the author's own.]

Even as the level of education among job seekers in Tunisia has improved, the government has failed to make policies guaranteeing enough job creation to absorb new entrants to the labor market, especially among those with university degrees.

As a result, Tunisia has one of the highest levels of unemployment among Arab states: more than 14% overall and 30% among those between age 15 and 29.


Many of those with degrees -- after failing to find work commensurate with their qualifications -- wind up launching small businesses in the informal sector, which leaves them asking their families for financial help. Others choose to emigrate to other countries, be it legally or illegally.

Sadly, the suicide rate among young people has increased as well. Some youths have even set themselves on fire in public to draw officials' attention to their depressed state. As the latest incident demonstrates, these acts are neither isolated nor exceptional. Rather, they express a deep sense of despondence among many youth that their chances for employment and a dignified life are dwindling.

The lack of job opportunities for Tunisia’s educated youth exists for several reasons.

Tunisia-protests3First, Tunisia's growth model suffers from excessive specialization and over-dependence on one market -- the European Union -- that has not matched Tunisia's supply with demand.

Second, Tunisia based its growth strategy on low-skill sectors that depend on cheap labor, such as textiles and clothing manufacturing, as well as tourism aimed at Europeans with medium-to-low incomes. These sectors do not provide enough job opportunities for the highly educated newcomers in the labor market.

Third, the demand for highly skilled labor has not kept up with the increased level of education in Tunisia. Over the last decade, the proportion of job seekers with higher education rose from 20% of the labor force in 2000 to more than 55% in 2009.

Fourth, the business environment in Tunisia offers little protection for investors -- especially local ones -- due to the absence of transparency and the rule of law. In addition, small- and medium-size institutions suffer from limited funding opportunities. Both of these factors limit initiative and restrain private-sector investment, hurting job creation.

Fifth, the restrictive eligibility criteria for Tunisia's labor-market policies limit the number of people who benefit from them and make the average amount of money spent per participant very high.

To provide more employment opportunities that better match job-seekers' education levels and increase economic growth, Tunisia's leaders must design incentives to direct resources toward knowledge-intensive sectors and industries, stimulate technological innovation, and overcome weaknesses in the business climate and administration. The return on investment in education is a central component of the Tunisian social model that is currently being wasted at both the individual and collective level.

Tunisia's policymakers must develop a strategic vision for growth that will enable the economy to absorb the available human capital -- and they must do so quickly. This will not only help young people find jobs now, but will reassure them that a better future lies ahead.

-- Lahcen Achy in Beirut

Upper photo: Demonstrators clash with Tunisian security forces Thursday in Sidi Bouzid, 160 miles from the capital, Tunis, after an attempted self-immolation by Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, a fruit and vegetable street vendor. Credit: Agence France-Presse /Getty Images

Middle photo: People demonstrate in front of the Sidi Bouzid prefecture on Thursday, one of a series of clashes between demonstrators and security forces in a region gripped by tensions over youth joblessness. Credit: Agence France-Presse /Getty Images

Lower photo: Tunisian police stand guard in front of the Sidi Bouzid center Thursday. Credit: Agence France-Presse /Getty Images


Comments () | Archives (6)

My opinion is that the economic analysis of Mr. Lahcen Achy does not right, This article contradicts all the position and rankings made by major international institutions about Tunisia country.
The current social events is not reflect the economic situation (2008:+ 5%, 2009 +3%, 2010 reach +4%: global crisis has not, however, prevented Tunisia). It is a simple social movement who some peoples claims to improve hers situations (like all democratic countries)! While, in the world, no governance system is perfect!
Mr. Lahcen Achy gives on the majority of his papers a downgrades and bad image of the North African countries, except his original country (Morocco)!!
I would like to say that Tunisia is pursuing its commitment to diversity and to building an economy based on knowledge and on technology intensive activities. Is not depends only of the tourism and agriculture!!
This is an idea on the Economic situation of Tunisia :
Tunisia is ranked 1 er in the southern shore of the Mediterranean and in Africa according to the Global Competitiveness Report 2009- 2010, released by the Davos World Economic Forum and 40th out of 133 developed and emerging countries in terms of global competitiveness.
A diversified economy :
The services sector and the manufacturing industries account for 42.7% and 17.6% of GDP respectively.
It is quoted as a model of economic success by international institutions and is awarded first rate rankings in terms of competitiveness across the African and Southern Mediterranean area.
(the Global Competitiveness Report 2009- 2010, released by the Davos World Economic Forum and 40th out of 133 developed and emerging countries in terms of global competitiveness).
“The business has survived quite well in 2009. The fall in exports to Europe was partially offset by the resilience of the tourism sector and production increases in the sectors of mining (iron, phosphate) and energy (oil). Domestic demand was supported by public investment and by household consumption boosted by a wage revaluation in the public and private sectors.” (The French Insurance Company for Foreign Trade “COFACE”, 2009)
A knowledge-based Society:
Tunisia is the 1 er country on the southern shore of the Mediterranean and in Africa for:
The availability of scientists and engineers,
The quality of its scientific research institutions,
The availability of latest technologies,

The country is 1st from the south shore of the Mediterranean and in Africa according to the Global Report 2009-2010, prepared by the World Economic Forum in Davos and 35th of 134 countries, for the quality of its infrastructure.
Communications infrastructure:
Tunisia is the first country in the southern Mediterranean area and in Africa and 39th out of 133 countries according to the index “Networked Readiness Index” published by the Global Information Technology Report 2009-2010
Tunisia is 1 st country from the south shore of the Mediterranean which attracts more companies as reported by the survey “National Industrial Strategy by 2016”, prepared by Ernst&Young in 2008.
Quality of Life:
Tunisia is the 1 st Arab country and in the southern shore of the Mediterranean where it is most “pleasant to live” according to the 2010 ranking released by “International Living”, an observer of quality of life in the world.
Tunisia is the first tourism destination in the south Mediterranean, and 44th in the world according to “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness 2009” Report, prepared by the Davos World Economic Forum.

The link:Tunisia is not working in this country. Please send as much as possible news and articles to enable their reading before their links are broken.
@Amrioui: it seems that your doctor administred to you this kind of medication...


One more reason not stated in the Article is that the high level of corruption devastating the private and public sectors. The family of the president are considered by the majority of the population as the real threat harming the economy and causing the flight on the internal and external investors. The protest are not just driven by the cause of unemployment, the lack of freedom and absence of communication between the government and the Tunisians remain one important cause of these protest.
The private media are owned by the family of the president...

The news that are coming out of Tunisia where the police are shooting at peaceful protesters are only 1% of what the Arab people have been suffering from for decades at the hands of the Arab terrorist tyrants and their machines of terror and horror.

The constant and continuous (day and night) systematic oppression and terror by the Arab soldiers, police and Al Mukhabaraat (Secret Intelligence) for decades have caused the Arab people to lose their minds and a lot of them end up in psychiatric institutions. There is an Arab saying: “The terrorist Arab dictators wish when they wake up to find all Arabs in psychiatric institutions”.

And indeed, millions of young Arab men are identified as psychologically unbalanced hence the rise of suicide rates which is prohibited by Islam. And if you try to speak for Democracy you disappear like tens of thousands from Morocco to Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And if you do not disappear the dictatorship will feed you medication that will make you become crazy. From Morocco to Syria thousands of once brilliant beautiful young men are today wandering the streets wearing filthy rags begging for food. And if you are a high profile person the Arab dictatorship forces your personal doctor or any doctor taking care of you to administer to you medication that will make you become crazy and slowly kill you. We have thousands of such cases in all Arab countries which are waiting to become public. From Freedom and Democracy Fighters and Mankind’s hope like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison to society’s lowliest and most neglected insane beggars wandering the Arab streets wearing rag tags.

Also, there is something else very awful these young victims of the Arab dictatorships are suffering from but do not dare talk about: they were forced to sit on bottles and sodomized by the agents of the Arab dictatorships. Sodomizing those who speak for democracy and their entire families is very common in the Arab countries as it was in Europe during the Dark Ages for the purpose to silence dissent. This suggests that the Arab dictators are willing to use any evil means in order to maintain power. Even become homosexuals as some of them are.

And when the best and the brightest of the Arab countries are imprisoned, sodomized, tortured and slowly assassinated by the Arab terrorist dictators the abuses of all Arab people continue regardless of their age. And if you wonder why the number of fatherless children living in the streets in all Arab countries has risen to the tens of thousands is because the Arab soldiers, police and Al Mukhabaraat can rape any teenage girls and women they desire. And as a matter of fact this abuse of girls and women is known to have started in the Arab palaces where secret dark rooms and clubs where evil sexual orgies, alcoholic and Hashish consumption have been going on for decades amongst Al Omaraa‘ Al Mu‘menoon (The Leaders of The Faithful) and “Israeli”, European and American homosexual men.

Further, one wonders why the Arab streets are always filthy? Why there is no adequate garbage system, hospitals, schools, transportation system..? Why in the land where civilization and agriculture started millions of people are hungry? Why naturally peaceful and moral Muslims are becoming suicidal? Force the Arab people to become crazy and or commit suicide. It is easy to rule crazy and dead people.

Finally, my Political Science Professor Dr. David Johns from San Diego State University summed up the political situation in the Arab countries as follows: “They are damned if they do and they are damned if they don’t”. My dear professor was referring to the Arab dictators whether they open the political system to the Arab people or not they will definitely be replaced by democratically elected representatives from the Presidents to the Senators, the Governors, the Mayors, …and Imams and Khaleefa.

Student/Teacher Amrioui Salaheddine Moroccan/American Citizen

What is absent from this article is any criticism to the Ben Ali dictatorship and his corrupted government. He and his cronies have silenced all opposition by oppressing the population and imprisoning dissidents. The U.S. government is a long time supporter and an Ally of the Ben Ali regime and has supported his atrocities throughout. We must demand from our government to pressure Ben Ali to step down and be put on trial for all of his crime and allow the people of Tunisia to determine their own destiny.

Ben Ali successfully established a brutal dictatorship and one of the most corrupt regimes in the entire world. Despite being a small country with only ten million people, Tunisia has a very large police force of more than eighty thousand policemen and secret agents, not even France with sixty three million people can much that number. Through his large police force Ben Ali eliminated the opposition, persecuted all his critics and silenced the entire population for twenty three years so far. Ben Ali and his “Mafia”, especially his wife Leila killed the hopes and dreams of the majority of Tunisians and only corrupt few are reaping the benefits of such corrupt group. I strongly support the current upraise and I hope that such movement will speared throughout the country to uproot Ben Ali and every corrupt person in his circle.


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