The title of this week’s blog is a slogan from Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992, which he used to emphasise that the economy was the single biggest issue for the USA at that time. Since then, the phrase has become a snowclone (according to Wikipedia – no, I’d never heard the word before either) in politics and political themed TV shows, spawning variations such as ‘It’s the deficit, stupid’, or ‘It’s the voters, stupid’, or even ‘It’s the everything, stupid’.
I’ve often thought that in a Tunisian context this should be, ‘It’s the jobs, stupid’. That’s because unemployment is such a problem, particularly amongst young people and particularly amongst graduates. I haven’t seen recent data, but I read recently that In 2010, around 30% of people between the age of 15 and 24 were unemployed. Tunisia is not alone here, indeed youth unemployment in parts of the EU is far worse, but even so these figures give Tunisia the highest youth unemployment rates in the Maghreb region. So, addressing this challenge has to be the priority of any government.
‘It’s the jobs, stupid!’ came to mind again last week when I was at an internal British Council meeting to look at our Skills for Employability programme in the MENA region. It was fascinating and uplifting to find out more about the work colleagues are doing in other countries in the region: there’s the Modern Apprenticeship programme in Egypt (see these short films on our Egypt youtube channel), our #employability series of events in Morocco (see the photo album on Facebook), or our Enterprise Award programme in Libya (look us up on Twitter with #EA2014). And I mustn’t overlook the work we’re doing in Tunisia, for example our involvement in the excellent Souk At tanmia programme, which has given training to 300 young entrepreneurs and start up grants to 71 of these.
Like many of our programmes, Skills for Employability takes place all over the world. I’ve mentioned this short film about our global skills work before, but in case you missed it, here it is again: http://vimeo.com/70469515
Having spent a long period unemployed myself back in the 1980s, I know how difficult it can be to get into the job market. And I know that when you’re young and without work it’s difficult to feel optimistic for the future. That’s why I feel that helping young people to develop the skills they need to find work is such an important task right now. I hope that through our work in Tunisia and across the MENA region, we’re doing our little bit to give young people a sense of hope.