How to help our Youth beat the odds – New McKinsey report highlights 7 game changers to create a bright future for the next generation

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‘Opportunity Youth: Imagining a bright future for the next generation presents ideas that could ensure outsized impact for region’s young people over next 20 years

Dubai-United Arab Emirates: A new report from McKinsey & Company’s Middle East Office launched today, offers a perspective on the biggest game-changers that would help unlock opportunity for youth across the region over the coming two decades.

Titled Opportunity Youth: Imagining a bright future for the next generation, the new report starts by recognizing some of the systemic challenges in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP) region, such as unemployment and gender disparity in the workplace. However, it quickly pivots to focus on the specific game-changing opportunities and ideas that give root to a more optimistic perspective of potential outcomes for youth.

The 7 high-level game-changers highlighted in the report are:

  1. Globally competitive talent: Increasing access to early childhood education enrollment and reskilling and upskilling existing workers
  2. Homegrown global firms: Increasing openness and trade through collectively reducing trade barriers, reconsidering barriers on existing inter-regional capital movement, as well as removing movement restrictions for highly skilled workers to provide a talent pool for home-grown superstar companies
  3. Innovation industries: Embracing the rise of automation and digitization, enabling R&D ecosystems, and facilitating the best environment for entrepreneurship
  4. Gender parity in the workforce: Getting large institutions to commit to gender parity and flexible work to shape supportive environments for women
  5. Healthy populations and resilient health systems: Adopting a “Health in all Policies” approach, pushing the adoption of virtual and digital health to boost efficiency, and inducting more than 8 million healthcare service professionals over the next 20 years
  6. Rebuilt conflict zones: Establishing a joint recovery fund and mechanisms to help overcome the impacts of conflict as seen in other recovery countries
  7. Governments focused on performance and delivery: Encouraging governments to produce annual report cards to boost effectiveness and accountability

The report dives deeper into each of these themes, highlighting specific ideas and mechanisms for implementation.

Gassan Al-Kibsi, McKinsey Middle East Managing Partner, said: “Everyone quickly points out the challenges youth face in our region. While these challenges are real, what is most concerning is the defeatist tone underpinning these conversations – one that essentially says, “there’s no point in even trying”. We too, see the challenges, but we also believe that there are incredible opportunities. Youth here are as talented as youth anywhere. We believe in them. We believe in their potential. And we are committed to helping enable a bright future – and hopefully in the process creating more optimism about what lies ahead.”

Khalid Aljihrish, co-author of the report, said: 

“When I was younger, opportunities for youth at a better economic future in the region were few and far in between, especially for youth who grew up in lower income parts of the region. I was one of the lucky ones who had one of those few tickets to a brighter future. Even though many countries in the region, both through private and public initiatives, are undergoing impressive transformations today to broaden economic opportunities available to their youth, there is still much to be done. We hope that the ideas we share in this report help broaden the positive impact of ongoing initiatives and help make the ticket to a brighter future I had when I was younger available to a much larger subset of youth in the future.”

Some insights that helped inform the report’s game-changers

  • Between 2020 and 2040, some 127 million young people are set to enter the labor force in the next two decades, while nearly 29 million jobs – McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimates that about 17 percent of current jobs – are at risk of being displaced by 2030 due to automation. Addressing this issue through game-changing solutions presented in the report could add economic output of US$197 billion to the region by 2040 (assuming an additional 0.5 percentage point of economic growth for each country compared to baseline projections[1]).
  • According to the McKinsey Global Institute, a more integrated market in the region could ensure a region-wide GDP of approximately US$3 trillion and a fair share of around 30 superstar companies.
  • Promoting home-grown superstar[2] companies could help shape an enabling business environment and mitigate the region’s poor record in startup financing. Through empowering new tech-enabled businesses – if the region matched the EU’s rate, MENAP would have 2.3 million new businesses entering the market each year.
  • Based on McKinsey Global Institute’s ‘COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects’ study, the region’s economy could add US$1.9 trillion in incremental GDP by 2040 through boosting female employment.[3]
  • Published research indicates that relaxing restrictions between the region’s markets can yield as much as 4% in additional economic output annually, or US$1.8 trillion by 2040.

About McKinsey & Company:
McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm. We are the trusted advisor to the world’s leading businesses, governments, and institutions. Since 1957, we have helped the Middle East region unlock growth and development, build champions in major industries, and nurture the talent of the next generation. The work of all eight of our locations—Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Doha, Dubai, Karachi, Kuwait, Manama, and Riyadh—is underpinned by our deep local roots, global reach, and investment in knowledge. The Middle East Office is committed to making a difference in the communities we serve. Through client work, dedicated social impact programs, and pro-bono initiatives, we are working to address some of the region’s most pressing social and economic challenges. With more than 600 colleagues and over 60 nationalities represented, we are proud to be one of the most diverse offices in the Firm globally.