Jihad Azour, the International Monetary Fund Director of the Middle East and Central Asia talks with the The Associated Press at the Dubai International Financial Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 1. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that nearly a quarter of the Middle East's youth are unemployed, warning that unless deeper reforms are made, millions of young people entering the labor market each year may not find jobs.The IMF says current levels of growth across the region will not generate a sufficient number of jobs to reduce unemployment, which was one of the main grievances behind the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.Economic growth for oil-exporting countries in the region topped 5 percent in 2016, but slowed to 1.7 percent just a year later. The IMF predicts an upward trend of close to 3 percent this year and 3.3 percent in 2019 . These countries, which include Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Syria, would need sustained growth of at least 6.2 percent a year just to keep unemployment at its current average rate of 10 percent, the IMF report found.In some of these countries, for example, the IMF says the gap between public sector wages and those in the private sector is 200 percent, making government jobs that much more coveted.The IMF expects growth to reach 5.5 percent in 2019, aided by an increase in gas production.
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