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Arab Spring ‘driving economic interest in Mena’

Dubai, March 29, 2012

While the Arab Spring had an immediate negative impact on the economy in the Mena region, its effect has been positive in driving higher interest in both economic and social development, a report said.

A majority in the region said that the Arab Spring has resulted in deteriorating employment conditions in an online survey conducted by Bayt.com, a major jobsite, in partnership with the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law as well as research and consulting organisation YouGov.

In countries experiencing revolutions, the effect is worse:  58 per cent of respondents in Tunisia, 68 per cent of respondents in Egypt, 71 per cent of respondents in Syria, and 65 per cent in of respondents in Bahrain believe that the employment situation now is either worse or much worse than before the revolution, the report said.

Personal economic situations are also perceived to be negatively affected by the Arab Spring.

The percentage of respondents saying that their individual economic situation is now worse than it was before the revolutions ranges from a high of 66 per cent in Syria, to a low of 11 per cent in Algeria.

Forty-nine per cent of Egyptian respondents say they have been affected negatively, while 30 per cent of Tunisians say the same.

In the GCC countries, the percentage of professionals saying that their individual economic situation is now worse is consistent, except for Bahrain: 30 per cent in the UAE, 22 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 24 per cent in Qatar, 29 per cent in Oman, and 25 per cent in Kuwait. On the other hand, 55 per cent of respondents in Bahrain claimed that their situation is worse.

The negative economic impact of the Arab Spring is felt across all age groups and economic levels.

However, 34.44 per cent of professionals in the private sector say that they have been negatively affected compared to 20.22 per cent in the public sector. Yet, even with this disparity, the survey shows that professionals are no longer looking at the government as the main provider of employment opportunities.

In most countries, roughly two-thirds of respondents express interest in the private sector, with 71 per cent of Jordanians, 74 per cent of Lebanese, 70 per cent of Syrians, 68 per cent of Egyptians, 66 per cent of Saudis, 75 per cent of Bahrainis, 48 per cent of Tunisians, and 51 per cent of Moroccans all saying they would prefer to work in a private company.

Professionals in Algeria and Qatar were most interested in working in the public sector, with only 35 per cent and 39 per cent respectively wanting to work in the private sector.

“While the effects of the recession are apparent, the Middle East’s businesses have also had to deal with the more recent Arab Spring,” said Sundip Chahal, CEO, YouGov.

“For the most part, countries consider their personal employment and business situations to be the same. Yet, in those countries hardest hit by the Arab Spring – Bahrain, Egypt and Syria – the tone is that overall employment conditions, both personal and countrywide, have become somewhat worse as a result.”

The survey reveals that the majority of respondents are familiar with the term “entrepreneurship” (only 29 per cent are not familiar at all). On average, there is a higher level of familiarity with entrepreneurship in the Gulf countries, with 22 per cent of respondents very familiar with the term in the UAE, Oman, and Kuwait followed by 20 per cent in Qatar and Bahrain.

Rabea Ataya, CEO of Bayt.com said: “Our data shows that over a quarter of entrepreneurs in the Arab world were motivated to start their own companies due to lack of job opportunities.”

“Therefore, as a result of recent economic challenges in the region, we should expect to see a growing interest in entrepreneurship as a way to drive income and a growing contribution of the SME sector in providing jobs.”

“At Bayt.com, not only do we provide a wealth of jobs and recruitment solutions to connect between people looking for jobs and business owners, we also empower our members with access to live data regarding the employment and economic pulse of the region,” Ataya added.

Respondents also seem open to the idea of working in the field of social entrepreneurship. In general, the percentage of respondents not interested was higher in the Gulf countries; roughly 17 per cent of respondents in Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, and 20 per cent of Emiratis.

Those who are interested in starting NGOs stated lots of challenges, with lack of finance, government interference, and the difficulty of registering NGOs as key factors hindering the progression of social entrepreneurship.  In fact, 54 per cent of respondents said that they were not able to start the NGO they wanted.

“Entrepreneurship is one way in which the need for job creation in the private sector in the Arab world can be addressed, but it cannot prosper unless measures to resolve those problems are taken,” said Lina Khatib, manager of Stanford's Program on Arab Reform and Democracy.

“The international development community can capitalize on the opportunity to nurture this sector in order to help with this process.” – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Mena | GCC | Survey | YouGov | economic development | Arab Spring |

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