Employment Promotion

In the Arab States, the issue of decent job creation has a prominent place on the agendas of national governments as well as regional and international organizations, particularly amidst the recent economic and geopolitical developments in the region. Unemployment is relatively higher among women and youth, despite the increase in educational levels among both population groups. In general, challenges to decent employment creation in the Arab States remain manifold and interlinked. In partnership with its tripartite constituents- government, workers’ and employers’ organizations- the ILO works to address decent work deficits through a set of policy interventions carefully designed to respond to the specific national contexts and needs. See more

Facts & Figures

  • In 2018, total unemployment rate in the Arab States registered 7.3 per cent with more than 4 million individuals seeking employment.
  • Excluding the GCC - where large numbers of migrant workers work – the unemployment rate in the Middle East stands at 10.8 per cent, suggesting a particularly critical situation in the non-GCC countries, where political instability, active conflicts and security risks continue to undermine socio-economic development.
  • One in five young men and women were out of work in 2018 in the Arab region, compared to a global youth unemployment rate of 11.8 per cent.
  • The unemployment rate among Arab women is more than twice that of men, registering 15.6 per cent in 2018 compared to a male rate of 5.8 per cent.
  • Labour force participation among women stands at 18.4 per cent relative to 77.2 per cent among Arab men. Interestingly, Arab men’s participation in the labour force is higher than the world average (74.9 per cent) whereas that of Arab women is incomparably lower (global average participation rate of women is 48 per cent).
  • In addition to the 4 million unemployed individuals in the region, there are another 4.5 million persons in the potential labour force: people who are not in employment and a) are looking for a job but not yet available to work (unavailable jobseekers), or b) are available to work but are not looking (available potential jobseekers). This gives a tally of at least 9.5 million underutilized persons in the region, before accounting for those who are under-employed.
  • In terms of quality of employment, it is estimated that more than 8 million workers in the Arab region lived in extreme or moderate poverty in 2018 while vulnerable employment constituted 15.4 per cent of total employment in the region.
  • Informal employment is also relatively high, accounting for more than two thirds of the region’s total employment as of 2016.
  • Comprehensive National Employment policies exist in only 4 countries of the Arab States region, namely Jordan, KSA, Iraq (including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq) and more recently the UAE.
Source: ILO

Publications & Reports

  1. Arab States Employment and Social Outlook - Trends 2024: Promoting social justice through a just transition

    While many economies in the Arab States region continue their post-pandemic recovery, recovery of the labour market lags behind, requiring concerted efforts to intensify diversification and to create jobs in more resilient sectors, the ILO report finds.
    The region's unemployment rate is expected to remain high at 9.8 per cent in 2024, above pre-pandemic levels, reflecting various factors that affect the region's labour markets such as segmentation, political instability, conflict, economic crises, a weak private sector and demographic pressures.

  2. Towards a Productive and Inclusive Path: Job Creation in the Arab Region

    This report by ESCWA and the ILO Regional Office for Arab States examines why Arab economies fail to create sufficient decent jobs. It provides guidance to policymakers, help reduce labour market deficits, especially in the formal private sector, and unlock the potential of the private sector to become a major driver for economic growth and the creation of decent employment across the region.

  3. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Labour Market in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: a Forecasting Model Assessment

    The purpose of this report is to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market in the OPT, despite the lack of detailed data. Policy recommendations are provided based on the results of the analysis and with a view to mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the labour market in the OPT.

  4. Rapid Diagnostic Assessment of Employment Impacts under COVID-19 in Lebanon

    The COVID-19 pandemic emerged in Lebanon at a time when the country was grappling with its worst economic and financial crisis in decades. Lockdown measures have further hampered economic activity and left various groups of workers severely affected.  

Focus on

  1. World Employment and Social Outlook 2021

    The role of digital labour platforms in transforming the world of work

    This ILO flagship report explores how the contemporary platform economy is transforming the way work is organized, analyzing the impact of digital labour platforms on enterprises, workers and society as a whole.

  2. COVID-19: Labour Market Impact and Policy Response in the Arab States

    Briefing Note with FAQs


  1. Supporting Ministry of Labour and Social Development in analysis, policy and capacity development

    Under this project, the ILO aims to provide technical assistance and support, as well as capacity building, in three priority areas agreed upon between the ILO and the Ministry of Labour and Social Development: boosting women’s employment and moving towards a more inclusive labour market; enhancing social dialogue mechanisms for better policy formulation; and assessing the child labour situation and developing actions for its elimination. 

  2. Support to the development of employment policies in the occupied Palestinian territory

    The ILO and the Palestinian Authority are working to create a policy framework and develop relevant mechanisms to improve the labour market and employment situation in the country.

  3. Informal Economy and Vulnerability Sample Survey to assess the labour market impact of the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon

    The ILO is commissioning an Informal Economy and Vulnerability study in Lebanon to provide currently unavailable information on the supply and demand sides of Lebanon’s labour market, targeting the most vulnerable populations among Lebanese, Syrian Refugees and Palestinian Refugees.