UK aid’s approach to youth employment in the Middle East and North Africa

A review assessing the relevance and effectiveness of UK aid programmes in promoting employment opportunities for young people across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 8 July 2021
  3. Type: Full review
  4. Subject: Cross-government aid spend, Livelihoods and social protection
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey
  7. Lead commissioner: Tarek Rouchdy
  8. SDGs covered:Gender equality, Decent work and economic growth

Latest news

We published our review of UK aid’s approach to youth employment in the Middle East and North Africa in 2021 and made five recommendations. We’ve followed up and rated the government’s progress implementing our recommendations as inadequate. Find out more on the ‘Further scrutiny‘ tab.


Over half of the population in the MENA region is under 24 years old and a quarter of young people in the labour force are unemployed. Some countries within the region report that up to 60% of young women are not in education, employment or training (NEET), whilst nearly 30% of young unemployed people across the region have a university degree.

The youth employment challenge is exacerbated by both demand-side failures, such as a lack of access to finance, restrictive business regulations and cronyism which reduces the number of employment opportunities, and supply-side failures, such as education and skills that do not match labour market needs, making it harder for young people to compete for jobs.

Overall, the MENA region is characterised by economic and geopolitical instability. Economies face structural imbalances including large, inefficient public sectors, uncompetitive business environments and governance challenges, as well as high youth unemployment.

Within this context, sustainable economic development and poverty reduction in the region are closely linked to the need to create decent work opportunities for young people.

This review assesses whether the UK has been relevant and effective in promoting employment opportunities for young men and women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals relevant to this review are:

  • Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender equality
  • Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth



Published 20 October 2020

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 8 July 2021

Government response

Published 19 August 2021

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 24 November 2021

ICAI follow-up

Published 30 June 2022

Further follow-up

Published 18 July 2023