Investing in Youth in Tunisia

Zied Ladhari, Minister for Professional Training and Employment of Tunia and Stefano Scarpetta, Director of the OECD Employment Directorate. © OECD.


Tunisia has made great strides since 2011 towards greater inclusivity and fairness in its political system, based on the rule of law, transparency and good governance. The country now needs to adopt a new growth model to achieve its full potential and cement the democratic transition.

In particular, tackling youth labour market challenges remains urgent in Tunisia, and is indeed one of the country’s top priorities. Failure to tackle the long-standing structural obstacles that prevent youth in Tunisia from gaining access to productive and rewarding jobs can undermine political support for the transition to a stable, fairer, and democratic society.

Earlier this year, the OECD launched its report, Investing in Youth: Tunisia, financed by the MENA transition fund. The report reviews labour market policies and the most promising social measures for removing barriers to employment. It makes four key recommendations:

  • Improve youth employability with effective labour market and social policies. Measures that can be adopted in this field include an unemployment benefit system; the expansion and proper targeting of unconditional cash-transfer programmes (national welfare programme to support vulnerable families) in order to provide a social safety net; strengthened public employment services and support for entrepreneurs.

  • Increase the attractiveness of hiring young people. This requires a constructive social dialogue that takes into account the situation of young people; reducing the gap between public and private sector wages and benefits; more targeted use of salary subsidies to encourage recruitment and more precise targeting of these subsidies at the underprivileged, underqualified and long-term unemployed.

  • Increase the effectiveness of vocational education and training to support the transition from school to work. Vocational education and training, for example, should be made more attractive to prospective students, by facilitating transfers between general and vocational courses and by improving the quality of options in the final years of secondary education.

  • Promote job prospects for young people in the green sector. The focus should be on areas that will create jobs or where existing skills can be adapted. These would most likely be renewable energy, waste and recycling, eco-tourism and exports of organically farmed produce, and the construction sector.

Speaking at the launch of the report in Tunis earlier this year, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría declared: “Tunisia is showing a new face today, one which reflects the thirst for change of a whole generation of young Tunisians who went onto the streets in the hope of building a brighter future. These young people are the cornerstone of tomorrow’s shared prosperity. Now is the time to address the structural barriers that have for so long prevented this generation, and those living in poorer regions, from playing a full role in Tunisia’s economy and society."

Following the launch of the report, Tunisia signed the OECD Action Plan for Youth. This plan outlines a comprehensive range of measures to tackle the current youth unemployment crisis and to strengthen the long-term employment prospects of youth. It builds upon extensive OECD analysis of education, skills and youth-related employment policies as well as a number of international initiatives, including the ILO Resolution on “The youth employment crisis: a call for action”, the G20 commitments on youth employment and the EU Council's agreement on the Youth Guarantee.

The report laid the analytical foundation for another project funded by the MENA transition fund, the “platform on green jobs”, which will be implemented in the region of Bizerte by UNOPS and is expected to benefit 850 young people and lead to the creation of 50 new enterprises.

The full report, Investing in Youth: Tunisia, may be accessed here