The Middle East and North Africa differ from other regions in terms of their socio-economic development. On the one hand, wealth disparities within the individual societies are relatively low. On the other hand, the wealth disparities between the oil-rich Gulf monarchies and the populous resource-poor countries are tremendous.
Most of the governments invested heavily in their education systems as of the mid-twentieth century. Driven by more but not necessarily better education, economic and social expectations increased, especially among the younger generation. However, by the end of the 1970s, the most important employer, the state bureaucracy, was no longer in a position to create sufficient jobs due to strong population growth and declining state revenues. The private sector, strengthened through structural adjustments, was also unable to provide the necessary new positions. It was primarily young adults who suffered from the increasing unemployment of the 1980s, because they weren’t able to free themselves from their parents and start their own families without their own income.
These developments led to, among other things, political discontent, which was vented in the protests of the Arab Spring. Although political freedom and participation have been expanded in some countries since 2011, this will not automatically lead to the resolution of the structural economic and social problems. In particular, the distortions in the labour markets, the imbalances in the education sectors, the inadequately developed tax systems, and the shortage of competitive industrial concerns necessitate extensive reforms. The GIGA studies these socio-economic development challenges in the Middle East and North Africa.