Promoting Inclusive Growth in the Middle East and North Africa
Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World

Abstract

Despite some pre-pandemic gains in poverty reduction, literacy, and lifespans, many economies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have struggled to ensure that the benefits of economic development and diversification accrue equitably to all segments of their populations. Among the main issues that remain unresolved are the high share of inactive youth (who are not engaged in employment, education, or training); large gaps in economic opportunities for women; fragmented social protection systems; and underdeveloped private sectors with tight regulation, absence of a level playing field, and limited access to credit that stifle the creation of new firms and growth, employment, and incomes. The COVID-19 pandemic not only risks wiping out some of the progress made in the region over the past decades, but could also exacerbate inequality in a durable way. There is evidence that the impact of the pandemic has been uneven across groups, with the recession having a disproportionate effect on the low-skilled, the young, women, and migrant workers in employment and incomes. With widespread inequality, high unemployment, and the expected entry of 27 million young people into the labor force over the next 10 years, countries across the MENA region need to evolve their economic models to boost job creation and make sure that the benefits of economic development are shared more widely among all their citizens. This book’s objective is to reassess the inclusive growth agenda in the MENA region in light of the rapidly changing pandemic-influenced world. It argues that countries need to embrace global trade and technological advances and evolving demographics at home as an opportunity to successfully implement policies that foster higher and more inclusive growth. It underscores that a return to the old social contract is neither desirable nor feasible. The book presents a comprehensive view of policies suited to the regional context that would boost job-rich and inclusive growth within a resilient macroeconomic policy framework. Its goal is to provide guidance to policymakers in the region to frame how best to promote inclusive growth, including in their engagement with all stakeholders.