On 18 and 19 November, FEMIP brought together in Luxembourg representatives of universities, the private sector and multilateral organisations along with officials from government departments on both sides of the Mediterranean to discuss the subject: “Matching skills to market needs: the human capital challenge in the Mediterranean region”. By addressing the main labour market challenges in the partner countries, this seminar helped to take forward the debate on an issue of key importance to the region’s future.

The enormous human capital challenge in the Mediterranean has now become a political priority

Young people under the age of 25 make up nearly two thirds of the population of the Mediterranean region. At a time when so many other economies are facing major problems connected with the ageing of their population, this represents a huge asset as long as they can be provided with jobs. But the Mediterranean countries have high unemployment rates and will have to create some 20 to 60 million jobs by 2020 just to keep those rates at their current levels.

The human capital issue has now moved to the centre of the political agenda: in the Paris Summit Declaration it was identified as one of the EU’s priority fields of action in the Mediterranean. The Foreign Ministers meeting in Marseille then the Industry Ministers meeting in Nice in early November set out a raft of initiatives aimed at bolstering higher education, fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and promoting vocational training. This commitment was reiterated by the Employment Ministers meeting in Marrakesh on 9 and 10 November.

 The recommendations emerging from the seminar

 FEMIP’s action should be based on four main pillars:

1-      Investing in human capital and stepping up FEMIP financing for education and vocational training while exploiting the experience gained by the Bank in the EU. FEMIP can especially support the construction of vocational training centres, with the help of technical assistance financed by the EU budget if necessary.

2-       Investing in innovation by targeting to a greater extent equity funds that specialise in financing start-ups, especially through the FEMIP Trust Fund, with the aim of attracting private investors.

3-       Bringing all stakeholders into the human capital debate: Ministries of Education, Research, Employment and Training, entrepreneurs/employers, professional associations and finance providers. Through its network of contacts with business people and chambers of commerce, FEMIP can act as a bridge between policymakers and business on the human capital issue.

4-     Stimulating demand for labour by supporting small businesses, especially job-creating family firms. This issue will also be addressed at the forthcoming FEMIP conference on SMEs to be held in Rabat next March.