Is Youth Unemployment the cause of Revolution?

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In almost all discourses on Tunisia’s revolution, youth unemployment* is counted as one of the biggest reason of the revolution. 

But there are several contradictions to this interpretation. First of all, unemployment of young people is an old problem in Tunisia. The youth unemployment rate has stayed around 15% since1989. 
Youth unemployment rate is higher, around 30% since 2005. Taking into consideration the demography (more than half of the population is younger than 30) of Tunisia, we can say that the youth makes up a very large part of the jobless population.

*Youth Unemployment: unemployment rate of 15-24 years old people.

Youth Unemployment is not Tunisia-specific

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40%, 26%, 20%...
 
            =Youth unemployment rates in 
                                      Spain, the US and Britain.

OECD Average=19.6% (2009)

Tunisia or Egypt are not the only country with such unemployment rate. For example, Spain shows much higher unemployment rate than Tunisia. 
Why not in Spain, but in Tunisia?


There are two compatible explanations for this. 
One is about education in Tunisia. Unemployment of highly educated people is  very serious in Tunisia. 
The other is about polity and government. 

1. Education and unemployment

Unemployment rate of total youth didn’t show any dramatic change in these two decades but one thing certainly changed. Enrollment to tertiary education increased solidly from 5% in 1987 to more than 30% in 2009.

World Bank pointed out that graduate students face much harsher job environment these days. Unemployment rate of people with diploma was less than 5% in 1994. It became 23% in 2009 and 'Recent graduates face 46 percent unemployment 18 months after graduation'. 
It is possible that the graduate people who disappointed with the job opportunity got angry with the government.

Thus it is possible that these graduates, well educated and politically conscious became the leading power of revolution. 
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school enrollment, tertiary (%)
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Average of Public Expenditure in Education as a Percentage of GDP, 1965–2003 (source; world bank)

2. Education and the lack of legitimacy of the Power 

Sadiki (2008) claims that in Tunisia, state expanded welfare to bring over the people who were bound by the unity of tribes to make up a nation with dissolving the tribal bonds. In other words, government tried to make people depend on the government, and it succeeded to some extent, Sadiki argues.
In that sense, in Tunisia education itself was a goal. It is a measure to bring over the people's support for the state and at the same time deprive them of autonomous bonds of tribes. As a result of this policy, tribal cleavage has almost completely extinguished. Therefore government lost the primary reason to continue to feed people 'carrot'.
However, another problem arouse, the lack of legitimacy. Government had to maintain and expand the education to sustain the regime itself. 

This point, the lack of democracy gives us clear explanation for today’s structural unemployment in Tunisia. Unemployment rate has stayed around 12%~16% since 2000 (though it is decreasing in long term trend), and especially high among graduate people (more than 30%). It is partly attributed to industrial structure. But to this extent, you should say Ben Ali did well. Under his rule, agriculture’s proportion decreased and service industry grows constantly, which will provide appropriate jobs for graduates.
Nevertheless it is too hard to make enough ‘demand’ for graduates in labor market because education system itself is not designed from the perspective of industries.
Education was independent from industrial policy and pursued as goal itself. 

Below is a summary of this section and also some videos and charts in the prezi presentation.

The research on how Ben Ali appeared as illegitimate to the people can be found here.