Unemployment in the Arab World will be at least 16 per cent in the wake of last year's uprisings, according to a top official in the Arab Labor Organization (ALO).
Mohamed Sherif Dawood was speaking at the opening session of a two-day conference on labour issues that started in Cairo on Wednesday, titled 'Employment for Stability and Social and Economic Improvement in North Africa'.
"There are many reasons causing us to revise our previous estimates such as the economic crisis and social mobility. At the same time, the numbers entering the labour market each year continue to build," Dawood told Ahram Online.
In 2007, the ALO put the average unemployment rate across the Arab World at 14.5 per cent from a total population of some 340 million -- the highest worldwide on a regional basis.
"The Arab countries are still keeping the highest unemployment rate," Dawood said in his opening remarks.
The highest rates are in extremely poor countries or others suffering from chronic political unrest like Djibouti, Palestine, Yemen and Iraq, Dawood said.
The lowest rates, meanwhile, are in Arab Gulf countries, including big oil producers like Kuwait and Qatar.
Speaking to Ahram Online, Dawood put at 18 to 20 million the number of jobless people of working age across the Arab World.
He added that Algeria is the Arab country which has shown the biggest improvement in terms of reducing its level of unemployment over the last few years.
Unemployment there now stands at 14 per cent, against 28 per cent five years ago.
"They established many developmental projects and successful training programmes. They built a lot of factories, developed their gas industries among other things," Dawood explained, adding that a lot of work still needs to be done.
In his speech Dawood also said that the Arab world's social uprisings were not a surprise for the ALO considering the extreme poverty, high unemployment rates and lack of freedoms in the region.