Sunday, January 30, 2011

What Set Off Tunisia?

Here is one view:

In sum, if you imagine Tunisia as a slightly better than average post-colonial tin-pot dictatorship, with a government that seems not to be totally economically incompetent, you won’t be far off.

So if it isn’t politics or economics, what is it that lead the people of Tunisia to rise up and overthrow their government?

Tunisia’s big problem is said to be unemployment. But unemployment there is running at somewhere between 13 percent and 14 percent, which isn’t really so bad. The real problem is that Tunisia cannot create suitable employment for the huge numbers of college graduates it creates every year.

That’s right: the education bubble popped in Tunisia.

Tunisia has a gigantic education apparatus that has earned it plaudits for years. Free university education is guaranteed to anyone who passes the government’s exams at the end of high school. As a result, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 university graduates enter the job market every year. Fifty-seven percent of young Tunisians entering the labor market are college educated.

It turns out that creating a large class of college-educated workers is not necessarily a recipe for prosperity. Tunisia has discovered it can be a recipe for political unrest and mass unemployment. For Tunisia’s recent college graduates, the unemployment level reaches to at least 30 percent. If you count in various forms of under-employment, it’s safe to say that as many as half of Tunisia’s recent college graduates are losing out in the jobs market.

Tunisia has clearly over-invested in higher education.
I don't know how accurate that thesis is, but it's not wacky enough to be dismissed out of hand.


Ellen K said...

When you look at Tunisia, and their failure to create jobs for their many college grads-many of whom got a subsidized education here-you are seeing the future of our own workforce. Right now federal bureaucrats have established guidelines that only consider college education as a viable goal for all high school students. In their own insular world, to work with ones hands is declasse and as such, dismissed. Luckily we still have middle aged technicians and master craftsmen that can fill these positions. Down the road we may end up with countless degreed persons working in low level jobs because there are simply so many of them. Supply and demand will erode wages. And then we will see bitter college grads wondering why they were never told of other options. We have to change our educational system to allow students who desire to learn how to do a job such as mechanic, carpenter, electrician, locksmith or what have to do so. This artifical dumbing down of academics and the dilution of college courses to allow for students to pursue degrees when they do not have the ability is just another prime example of how PC is killing us.

Curmudgeon said...

I think the issue in Tunisia is not that free college education is bad in and of itself, but rather that creating a highly educated middle class in a country ruled by a tinpot dictatorship with limited employment prospects is a bad idea.

I agree with the comments about dumbed down education, but I think that a capitalistic democracy can handle it better than a despotic regime can.

Bill said...

What Tunisia was lacking is obviously an entertainment industry. Bread an Circuses. So long as our unemployed college grads have Facebook and Xboxes, there's no danger of unrest.

maxutils said...

I think, if we were to look hard enough, that we might be ale to find a denominator common to every conflagration in the world today.