Unemployment and slow economic growth are major factors fueling protests in countries across the Arab world, a recent report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed.
IMF's regional economic outlook report pointed out that unrest resulting from these popular movements is, in turn, contributing to slower economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. However, uprisings cannot be solely blamed for growth declines as other factors including "global trade tensions and oil price volatility" all affect the region's economy as well.
Earlier this month, IMF lowered the 2019 forecast for the region - considering numbers for Arab countries and Iran - to 0.1 percent from 1.1 percent last year.
The organization also decreased its outlook for three of the region's largest economies: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the UAE.
IMF's director for the Middle East and Central Asia, Jihad Azour, shared insights on the organization's latest report in an interview with AFP.
"The level of growth that countries in the region are having is below what is needed to address unemployment," he said.
"We are in a region where the rate of unemployment at the youth level exceeds 25-30 percent and this requires growth to be higher by 1-2 percent in order to make a dent in joblessness," he added.
Young people are particularly affected by the phenomenon, with millions resorting to emigration in a bid to make a living.
Unemployment is directly fueling protests
"Unemployment averages 11 percent throughout the region versus seven percent across other emerging market and developing economies," the report revealed. More than 18 percent of women and nearly 23 percent of young people in the region were without jobs in 2018, it added. According to the IMF report, high unemployment recorded in the Arab world is "worsening social tensions" in several countries.
Stuck in a cycle of poverty and debt, people left with nothing to lose are taking to the streets to demand their most basic of rights.
Since 2010, huge revolts dubbed as the "Arab Spring" took place in countries including Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya. While dictators were toppled in all the aforementioned nations except Syria, the systems they left behind continue to largely affect people's lives.
New waves of uprisings still take place in the region. Earlier this year, a few erupted in Algeria, Sudan, and Iraq. This month, millions took to the streets in Lebanon - and abroad, as Lebanese expats joined the revolution - to protest rampant government corruption that has left the country on the brink of economic collapse.
Tackling high unemployment rates must be prioritized in the region's countries if they are to sustain economic growth in the future.
Other factors that can help alleviate economic woes include focusing on reducing public debt levels that are extremely high in a number of Arab countries.
"Having built over many years, the cost of public debt burdens has become sizeable, preventing investments critical to the region's long-term economic future," the report stated.
IMF found that public debt rates exceeded 85 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on average. Rates of over 150 percent have also been recorded in Lebanon and Sudan — two countries where people erupted in protest this year.