- Youth employment remains the biggest challenge for the country; creating opportunities and employment for youth is a top priority for Tunisia (as well as for all Arab Spring countries) and a crucial condition for a successful transition to democracy.
- In Tunisia, unemployment has been persistently high for more than two decades preceding the 2010 revolution and afterwards.
- Youth, between 15 and 30 years old, make about one-third of the labor force and three-quarters of the unemployed.
- Combating unemployment in these regions will require long-term structural reforms in order to improve productivity and to open new opportunities for youth through the creation of new innovative enterprises.
This paper analyzes trends in youth employment and unemployment in private sector development, with special attention to education and female employment. It uses data from a 2007 enterprise survey to study the evolution of the MSE sector and that Tunisian MSEs are suffering from similar problems faced by the private sector generally. The business environment has been plagued with corruption and many other imperfections and uncertainties, and was not conducive for substantial investment and enterprise creation. Small entrepreneurs, who are not well-connected to the old political elite, have been particularly hurt by the lack of clear rules and by rampant corruption. The paper argues for reforms of labor laws and of the financial sector in order to encourage MSEs to become formal and gain better access to credit. It also points out to huge inequalities between different regions in Tunisia (the poverty rate in the center west region is three times that in Tunis) and to a strong gender bias in the labor market (female labor market participation rate is 27 percent compared to 70 percent for males), and argues for special policies and programs to deal with them.