Linking human capital, labour markets and international mobility: an assessment of challenges in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia

A new study issued by the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University in Cairo on behalf of EUROMED Migration IV, a programme committed to establishing a constructive framework for dialogue and technical exchange on migration policy in the Euro-Mediterranean region, follows and builds on the results of the study ‘Exploring and Proposing Mechanisms for Labour Matching in the Mediterranean Region’, a key programmatic output that identifies structural obstacles to a more optimal allocation of labour in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

The MENA region continues to be a source of skilled labour, reflected in the outflow of skilled Arab workers to European or Gulf countries. The region is therefore one that generally produces migrants, receives migrants and also one that migrants pass through on their way to other destinations. With these historical migration patterns, labour migration in the region has not yet lived up to its full potential. The main evidence for this is the mismatch between educational and vocational training on the end hand and labour market outcomes on the other, along with demographic and economic characteristics and types and patterns of labour migration.

The labour markets of the non-oil countries of the MENA region play a significant role in shaping and managing the migration process. With the populations of the region growing at a high rate (compared to the rates in Europe), the countries of the region have witnessed remarkable improvements in access to education among their young populations. Access to basic education, secondary and higher tertiary education has significantly improved.

Labour markets, on the other hand, have limited capacity to absorb this increasingly educated workforce. As a result, unemployment rates among the highly educated have been recorded at 20 percent for Egypt, 15.8 percent for Jordan, 21.1 percent for Morocco and 30.2 percent for Tunisia. This shows that a negative correlation exists between the education levels and the unemployment rates, resulting in unemployment mostly affecting the highly educated among young people. This correlation refers to a failure in matching between the education outcomes and the demand in the labour market. This mismatch has not only been reflected in the countries within the region, but also across borders, affecting the labour markets of other regions, the main hosts of migrants.

This report provides a country-specific study of the relationship between the labour mismatch and migration in selected countries in the region. The report explores the cases of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia (EJMT for the purpose of this report). These four countries have been selected given their significance in the migration context in the region, not only as a countries both sending and receiving migrants, but also and transit countries in some cases. Historical and cultural factors have contributed to both similarities and differences in a migration context, shaping the purpose of migration policymaking and its implementation in each country.

The main common feature between the four countries is the increased enrolment in tertiary education. However, the resources acquired through investment in education is unfortunately wasted given the high unemployment rates among educated people. This mismatch has had repercussions for the labour markets in the selected countries. These repercussions range from high unemployment among the educated youth, or acceptance of lower skilled jobs, therefore crowding out the lower skilled workers.

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