GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Youth Unemployment in the Kingdom of Bahrain
Paper Proposal Text :
Arab Countries and the Gulf states are currently characterized demographically as having a, rapidly growing young population ‘youth bulge’. Youth currently compromise around 30 percent of the total population in the region. This phenomenon has been accompanied by a steady rise in unemployment, which has particularly affected the youth population. Increasing rates of youth unemployment are a major cause of social unrest, a ‘ticking time bomb’.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has been aware of this critical risk since 2002/3 when it began to study and address the issue. In 2002, the unemployment rate was at about 15% (about 20 thousand unemployed), while in 2011 this percentage fell to 3.5% (6 thousand unemployed) despite the dramatic increase in population and the number of foreign workers entering the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Initiatives to solve the unemployment problem involved both the government and the private sector although they faced many obstacles especially from the corporate sector and specifically employers. There is a common acceptance that businesses have tended to prefer foreign workers, from Asia, for example, over Bahraini workers because they cost less to employ. A tax was therefore imposed on all foreign workers to be paid by the employer in order to encourage employment of Bahrainis as well as the introduction of specific quotas for companies who must employ a certain number of Bahrainis.
Government initiatives included training and skill programs in addition to the promotion of the concept of entrepreneurship. Correspondingly, there were some legislative initiatives in which, for example, a social insurance law to support the unemployed was introduced, the first of its kind in the Arab world.
After ten years of policies aimed at reducing Bahraini employment, particularly amongst the youth, and in light of the current events in the region and its impact on youth engagement in society, it is a critical time to study our experiences in order to ensure policies are informed by up-to-date information.
This paper aims to shed light on the experience of the youth of Bahrain and intends to tackle the following questions:
•What has been the pattern of unemployment since Bahrain became a constitutional monarchy, with an emphasis on youth unemployment?
•What are the initiatives that have been taken by both private and public sectors to solve unemployment problems and how successful or unsuccessful have they been?
•What do the youth believe is the way forward for their future?
The paper will highlight some aspects that have been overlooked by initiatives, such as the role of wages, and the opinions of the unemployed youth themselves. By specifically involving youth in the study, it is hoped that a better understanding of the nature of the problem can be elicited. The intention is to encourage policy makers to make youth part of the solution rather than part of the problem.