Tunisia is trying to carry off a delicate political transition against a background of difficult circumstances — post-revolutionary social unrest and instability, the Libyan crisis, and the international crisis.
A swift return to social harmony and understanding between those involved in the political process are the main elements on the roadmap indicating the key stages on the way to economic recovery in 2012, together with the setting up of structures for economic governance fit to guarantee investors a legal framework that will encourage prosperous enterprises, making a clean break with the predatory practices of the former regime.
Progress has been made in governance in 2011, but the structural problem of youth unemployment requires far-reaching reform, going further than emergency action, whose effects will be felt in the longer term.
2011 saw the revolution of 14 January in Tunisia and its repercussion throughout the Arab world. On 23 October 2011, Tunisia held its first democratic election since independence. The election of the Constituent Assembly allowed the country to move on to a transition phase. This involves the drafting of a new Constitution, laying the foundations for a multi-party democracy based on respect for human rights. The following stage remains delicate, because of the challenge of maintaining social harmony, public security and achieving economic recovery. The political future and economic recovery are closely linked. There can be no economic recovery without stability, and no successful transition to democracy without recovery, providing a tangible response to young people’s aspirations.
The revolution revealed the extent of the country’s structural weaknesses: regional disparities, unemployment among young graduates and governance. Despite the progress made, the Tunisian economy is still dominated by traditional sectors providing little added value. It is also characterised by a split between offshore and onshore sectors, with a marked difference in terms of productivity, rate of growth, level of investment and tax advantages.
Following the 14 January revolution, the underlying economic situation in Tunisia worsened. Growth fell to -1.1% for the financial year (FY) 2011, because of political uncertainty and social unrest which affected the tourist industry and foreign direct investment (FDI). There was also fall-out from the Libyan crisis, through trade, remittance of funds from Libya or Libyan investment in Tunisia.
The banking sector remains weak because of the high proportion of non-performing loans, under-capitalisation and inadequate control, especially in risk management.
Despite these difficulties, the medium-term outlook remains positive. Although investors were reticent in 2011, Tunisia should attract new inflows of capital by stressing transparency and enterprise creation. The country has a highly qualified local workforce, dynamic private sector and a favourable geographical location at the meeting point of Europe and the African continent. The reform process has speeded up since the revolution, ranging from administration of regional development, not forgetting press freedom and youth employment.
However, the expected recovery in 2012 will depend on the main political stakeholders’ ability to reach an agreement on a new Constitution and government’s ability to take bold measures to foster economic growth and win investors’ confidence. Likewise, it will not rely on fuel and food subsidies, and will thus enable government to expand investment. Moreover, recovery is dependent on the European economy, which is the country’s main trading partner. Finally, the return to normality in Libya and the expected upturn could fuel a dynamic expansion of investment and trade between the two countries and could absorb some of Tunisia’s excess workforce. Thus the evolving situation in Europe and Libya will continue to have a decisive role.
Figure 1: Real GDP growth (Northern)
Table 1: Macroeconomic Indicators 2012
|Real GDP growth||3.1||-1.9||3.3||3.4|
|Real GDP per capita growth||1.9||-3||2.2||3.3|
|Budget balance % GDP||-1.3||-3.4||-6||-5.9|
|Current account % GDP||-4.8||-7.4||-8||-7.5|
Recent Developments & Prospects
Table 2: GDP by Sector (percentage of GDP)
|Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting||10.2||8.1|
|Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries||-||-|
|of which agriculture||-||-|
|Mining and quarrying||6.7||6.9|
|of which oil||-||-|
|Electricity, gas and water||1.4||1.3|
|Electricity, water and sewerage||-||-|
|Wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants||14.6||14.4|
|of which hotels and restaurants||-||-|
|Transport, storage and communication||12.9||14|
|Transport and storage, information and communication||-||-|
|Finance, real estate and business services||-||-|
|Financial intermediation, real estate services, business and other service activities||15.8||15.3|
|General government services||16.4||16.3|
|Public administration & defence; social security, education, health & social work||-||-|
|Public administration, education, health||-||-|
|Public administration, education, health & other social & personal services||-||-|
|Other community, social & personal service activities||-||-|
|Gross domestic product at basic prices / factor cost||100||100|
|Wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants||-||-|
The Tunisian economy has had to face a number of difficult circumstances. The tourist sector has shrunk drastically (-30% compared to 2010), production has been paralysed in several sectors and FDI has fallen dramatically (-26%). For the first time, GDP growth has been negative, showing a contraction of 1.1%.
Production has suffered as a result of domestic instability. The government took emergency action to help enterprises in difficulty and protect jobs, by paying for social security contributions and providing compensation for damage.
Public and private investment were badly affected. Gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) fell by 1.2% in 2011 and ought to recover in 2012 (+4.4%) and 2013 (+6.9%). Its contribution to growth should rise in 2012 (+1.1%) and again in 2013 (+1.8%).
Internal demand drove growth, stimulated by agriculture, inflation control, the availability of consumer credit (+3% en 2011) and steps to support household purchasing power. These steps include a wage increase in 2011 and the creation of 50 000 jobs gross in the public and private sectors.
The market and Libyan reconstruction might be of help to Tunisia in the short term through the export of goods and demand for manpower, estimated to be 200 000 jobs.
According to the sector, the situation is rather mixed.
The primary sector represented 8.5% of GDP in 2011, growing by 9.5%, compared to -8.7% in 2010. An improvement in the climate allowed a 112% increase in cereal production which went from 10 800 to 23 000 tonnes between 2010 and 2011. Olive-oil production, down by 20%, reached 120 000 tonnes in the 2010-11 season, compared to 150 000 tonnes in 2009-10. In 2011, Tunisia exported 107 000 tonnes of olive oil (compared to 110 000 tonnes in 2010), 12% of which was packaged, bringing in 430 millions Tunisian dinars (TND), or 225 million euros (EUR). A production of 900 000 tonnes of olives is forecast and 180 000 tonnes of olive oil for the 2011-12 season. The country still ranks third in the world for exports of olive oil, which accounts for half of its agricultural exports.
Manufacturing, 18.1% of GPD in 2011, rose in real terms by 3.2%. The sector is characterised by the preponderance of mechanical and electrical industry (30% of manufacturing output) and of textiles, clothing and leather (18%). This good result for 2011 is due to the renewal of activity on the part of the Société tunisienne des industries de raffinage (STIR Tunisian Refinery Industries), whose output was up by 150%, after pollution problems it had previously encountered. A weak showing on the part of the mechanical, electrical, food and building materials industries undermined this performance, as did the reduction in the chemical industry (-8% in 2011) and textile and clothing (-0.5%). The leading exporting industries have the same profile, with mechanical and electrical industries in the forefront, followed by textile, clothing, leather and shoes.
Non-manufacturing industries fell back by 5.7% in 2011 compared to an expansion of 4.7% in 2010. This fall is due to a reduction of 40% of value added in mining, which was badly hit by strikes, and to a decline of 6% in oil and gas production. According to the Compagnie des phosphates de Gafsa (CPG), phosphate production was only 2.5 million tonnes in 2011, compared to 8 million in 2010. The amount of phosphate fell to under 3 millions tonnes, compared to 13 millions in 2010. Having failed to meet its undertakings, Tunisia could lose several of its traditional markets in 2012 and see its sales plummet on world markets. As for oil, despite a slight fall in production in 2011, the most recent prospecting in 2011 looks promising. Four new wells should provide a 6% increase in overall production in 2012. Production was estimated to be 70 000 barrels a day in 2011.
The services sector accounts for 42% GPD and its share could rise to 50% within a few years if restructuring policies for production are put in place. Nevertheless, it contracted by -1.6%, following setbacks in the tourist sector, where income fell by 33% to TND 2.36 billion. On the other hand, the information technology and telecommunications sector, one of the most dynamic (5% of GDP), grew by 12.5% in 2011, thanks to infrastructural consolidation. The telecommunications network is among the most modern and reliable in Africa, providing worldwide links at competitive prices.
Prior to the 14 January 2011 revolution, the main guidelines were the rationalisation of expenditure, the promotion of public investment and cutting back subsidies through the Caisse de compensation. In 2011 the realisation of the extent of the social and economic difficulties led to a new priority of policies aimed at reducing unemployment and regional disparities, and the struggle to overcome poverty.
Subsidies to purchasing power rose by 90% over 2010 levels, reaching TND 2.8 billion (4.5% of GDP). Energy products were the prime beneficiaries of state intervention in 2011, reaching an overall sum of TND 1.5 billion, followed by foodstuffs (TND 1.1 billion) and transport. The government also helped industries that had suffered in the revolution. Moreover, in response to strikes, the state was forced to regularise the situation of several public servants.
Despite an under-spend, the budgetary deficit for 2011 is estimated at 3.9% of GDP as compared to 1.3% in 2010. Forecasts for 2012 show a marked worsening of the budgetary deficit to 5.5%, because of a fall in budgetary resources and a rise in public expenditure. Over the next few years investment levels will fluctuate around 7%.
Tunisia’s income base is fairly diversified with a good balance between direct (42.5% in 2011) and indirect taxation. Taxation has only limited distortion effects. VAT provides half of indirect taxation compared to an almost marginal level for customs duties (8% approximately). Despite the economic crisis, tax income held up well, with a good performance in direct taxation and non-fiscal receipts (income from private partnerships and privatisations). Expanding the tax base is still a major challenge, especially in a time of weak growth.
The low contribution of one part of the economy made up of small and medium enterprises(SME) and micro-enterprises is due to their low tax-rate, so that they only provide 2% of direct taxes. Corporation tax (30%) remains relatively high.
Table 3: Public Finances (percentage of GDP)
|Total revenue and grants||22.1||23.6||21.9||24.2||23.4||24||24.1||23.2||22.9|
|Total expenditure and net lending (a)||25||26.5||24.5||25.2||26.1||25.3||28||28.7||27.9|
|Wages and salaries||11.2||11.8||10.6||10.4||10.7||10.9||12.7||12.5||12.3|
The Banque centrale tunisienne (BCT, Tunisian Central Bank) relaxed its monetary policy in 2011 to give relief to bank funds and support economic activity. Substantial steps were taken to finance businesses and help them overcome the setbacks of the first half of 2011. The BCT lowered its reserve requirement on three occasions, coming down from 12% to 2%. The key interest rate came down 100 points, from 4.5% to 3.5%. Finally, the BCT had to provide commercial banks with liquidity, injecting the equivalent of TND 3.588 billion. As a result, credit available to the economy rose by 13.5% in 2011. Moreover, loans to private business represent 66% of outstanding debt, compared to only 9% for the public sector. The already low levels of the key interest rate and the reserve requirement will limit the possible use of these instruments to inject liquidity into the economy in coming years.
Exchange reserves fell markedly, from 13.7 to TND 11.3 billion from December 2010 to December 2011. Their current level is about 115 days of exports and is still above the critical threshold of 90 days. Inflation, on the other hand, had been kept in check (3.5% in 2011, compared to 4.6% in 2010), despite inflationary pressures on foodstuffs, following a rise in exports to Libya during the crisis.
The Tunisian dinar remains fairly stable, but fell slightly against the euro (+1.5%) and the American dollar (+7%) in 2011. The exchange policy led to a stable effective exchange rate, in line with the fundamentals. The BCT seeks to keep its interventions to a minimum, according to the changing level of official reserves.
Economic Cooperation, Regional Integration & Trade
For some years now, Tunisia has been seeking markets in its traditional trading partners while looking for opportunities to diversify towards Gulf countries and sub-Saharan Africa. After the free-trade agreement for industrial goods negotiated with the European Union (EU), which came into force on 1 January 2008, negotiations (duty free and quota free) on services and agricultural produce, already well advanced in 2010, will be continued in 2012, after a period of suspension in 2011. The EU is still the most important trading partner, with 75% of tourist arrivals, 70% of exports and 80% of FDI.
The fragility of recovery in advanced economies has already affected external trade, the volume of which was showing mixed results in 2011. The European crisis could have a major impact on Tunisia in 2012. The trade balance worsened, with a deficit of TND 6.7 billion in 2011 compared to 6.5 billion in 2010, that is to say 15.4% of GDP in 2011 compared to 10.6% in 2010. Moreover, the current account deficit reached 7.5% of GDP in 2011 compared to 4.8% in 2010, as a result of falling tourist income and reduced remittances from Tunisians abroad. External trade also suffered as a result of strikes on the part of Société tunisienne d’acconage et de manutention (STAM Tunisian Lightering and Handling Company) operatives, of sluggish customs services and congestion in the port of Radès.
Careful analysis reveals that the offshore-onshore split, already marked, deepened: while offshore exports continued to rise by 18.8% in 2011, foreign sale by onshore businesses fell by 5%. A similar picture emerges for imports.
2011 saw a fall of 26% in FDI. Inward investment was TND 1.68 billion in 2011 compared to 2.1 billion in 2010. The political and social situation in Tunisia remains tense. If confidence is not re-established in 2012, FDI could be at risk.
Table 4: Current Account (percentage of GDP)
|Exports of goods (f.o.b.)||29.2||37.6||38.9||42.8||33.1||38||39||38.8||36.9|
|Imports of goods (f.o.b.)||37.5||45.7||46.3||51.8||41.5||48.5||54.4||51.4||50.8|
|Current account balance||-2.7||-2.0||-2.4||-3.8||-2.8||-4.8||-7.4||-6.5||-6.1|
The worsening budget deficit saw public debt rise to 43.2% of GDP compared to 40.5% in 2010. It is expected to reach 46% in 2012, assuming expansionist budgetary policy, but still under the critical threshold of 50%. Servicing this debt cost around 10% of current income, far from the dangerous 30% level defined by international institutions. The foreseen worsening of the budgetary deficit should lead to a rise in public debt to around 46% in 2012.
Political uncertainty in Tunisia stemming from the transition to democracy caused most ratings agencies (Standard & Poor’s, Fitch, Moody’s) to downgrade their ratings in 2011 from BBB to BBB(-), with a negative outlook. The government had to leave the international borrowing market and turn instead to international institutions, especially multilateral development banks, because of their lower interest rates. Outstanding foreign debt rose by +7.7% and internal debt by +18.4%. Foreign debt now accounts for 58.4% of public debt, compared to 60.7% in 2010. However, the cost of servicing the debt as a percentage of current income remains low. It went from 9.7% in 2010 to 11% in 2011, and is projected to be 11.5% in 2012. Despite the rise in public debt in 2011 (43.2% of GDP) and 2012 (46.3%), Tunisia’s debt is moderate and inspires confidence among bi- and multi-lateral fund-givers. Respect paid in the past to macroeconomic balance has made it possible to face up to the difficulties encountered in 2011.
Figure 2: Stock of total external debt (percentage of GDP) and debt service (percentage of exports of goods and services)
Economic & Political Governance
Because of the political situation, Tunisia fell six places in the June 2011 Doing Business ranking, coming 46 but still ahead of Morocco (94th) and Egypt (110th). According to the World Economic Forum WEF), the country is still well placed in terms of infrastructure and communications. It lies in 30th place in the world for airports and 41st for its port facilities, far ahead of large emerging countries and some in Europe. Tunisia has the highest level of Internet access in Africa at 34%, compared to a continent-wide average of 9.6%. A thirteenth cyberpark, devoted to information and communication technologies (ICT) has come into service in Médenine.
The country wants to become a hub for banking services and a regional financial centre within five years through the “Port financier de Tunis” (Tunis financial port) mega-project. in 2011 the government launched a reform of the Investment Code so as to speed up a project aimed at creating industrial and technological technopoles, as well as business centres, which began in 2005. The ten existing industrial zones should be joined by 28 others being built as public-private partnerships. The aim is to set up 85 within five years, 50 of them in inland regions.
Tunisia has some 12 000 private businesses employing 10 or more people. 2 763 of them enjoy offshore incentives, 35% in the textile industry and 18% in foodstuffs. Of 3 135 businesses with foreign investment, 2 454 are in manufacturing, 380 in services, 158 in tourism, 81 in agriculture and 62 in energy, with a total of close to 325 000 jobs. Nevertheless, incoming businessmen still encounter difficulties. Some forms of interference such as “implicit quotas” in the purchase of public-sector entities have been reduced. Prior government approval the import of foodstuffs was abolished in August 2011. Price control has been relaxed and new ways of financing SMEs are being studied. However, businesses still cite as obstacles the lack of access to finance, bureaucracy, delays in docking in ports and unjustified delays in customs clearance.
Banks are the main source of finance for Tunisia’s productive sector. Competition is intensifying in key sectors. Access to banking services in Tunisia is the highest in the Maghreb, with one citizen in two holding an account. There are 21 banks with 1 335 branches in 2010, that is one branch for 7 900 people on average.
The proportion of non-performing loans went from 24% of the total in 2003 to 13% in 2010. Following this sharp decline, it is thought to have gone back up to 20% in 2011, despite a circular from the Central Bank requesting banks not to list as “non-performing” loans which ceased to perform after January 2011.
Many banks do not provide loans, savings accounts or insurance suitable for SMEs and young entrepreneurs, and still less products tailored for large-scale projects. According to Standard & Poor’s, Tunisian banks have made inadequate provision for problem loans. The regulatory authorities have not yet implemented the Bâle II rules to identify all risks. Banking supervision remains barely adequate.
Microfinance has been reformed in a new law, but still lacks appropriate governance, proper accounting, prudential regulation and risk management.
The stock market makes a small contribution to financing the private sector with a share of 11.3% in 2010 and only 57 companies listed. Stock market capitalisation representing almost 20% of GDP is low compared to other stock markets in the region. The market is mainly in the hands of small investors. Bonds dominate; representing TND 700 million in 2010. In 2011, tax relief for companies listed on the stock exchange was continued, provided they offer at least 30% of their capital to the public. A tax of 10% on capital gains was introduced to limit speculation. The upper limit of share savings plans was raised, in order to encourage long-term saving. After an 11% fall in mid-January 2011, the stock-market index Tunindex tended to rise again from June 2011 on. Despite tax incentives, businesses make little use of the financial market. Provision for crowd-funding is inadequate, especially investment funds, which ought to play a big role in the future. Moreover the stock-market is poorly provided with cover in the form of guarantees and insurance, despite economic agents’ need for them.
Public Sector Management, Institutions & Reform
Institutional weakness and the uncertain regulatory framework meant that part of the country’s productive resources fell into the hands of the family of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The family held a financial and economic empire estimated at USD 12 billion, including media, transport, banks, telecommunications, tourism and retail. The Ben Ali clan owned 90 businesses and had a share in 123 others. These companies, which have been nationalised for the time being, await a final political decision and the settling of the question of their outstanding debts.
Several reforms approved in 2011 aim at improving governance. Among them, the creation of an anti-embezzlement committee, a freedom of information law, an end to appointment by ministerial decree to important economic bodies, the setting up of new unions and employers’ organisations. Civil service recruitment structures have been reformed and competitive access made more transparent.
For a long time, coastal and tourist regions received over two-thirds of public investment. From now on the priority is to direct investment to the inland areas, through financial incentives, but also through the creation of a Ministry of Regional Development and a special investment budget for infrastructure. Businesses locating in inland areas will enjoy tax-relief until the end of 2012 and exemption from salary taxes for an unlimited period of time. In addition, a “Caisse des dépôts et consignations” (CDC Deposit and Consignment Office) was set up in August 2011 to facilitate the financing and development of small and medium enterprises and industries in these regions.
A 1 200 km motorway network is planned for 2016, as well as the building or repair of 1 220 km of roadway and 760 km of rural tracks. A logistics zone will be created in Radès, and a logistics and industrial services zone will be developed in the port of Zarzis. A commercial and industrial zone is also planned in Ben Guerdane. The deep-water port of Enfidha, a mega-project costing TND 3 billion in two phases, is being built. In time it will be linked to the rail network and Enfidha international airport.
Eleven enterprises are awaiting privatisation out of 230 earmarked in 1987. In total, 54% of privatised enterprises are in the service sector (compared to 38% in industry and 8% in agriculture and fisheries). These sales brought in 84.5% of receipts from privatisation, especially with the floating of Tunisie Télécom.
Natural Resource Management & Environment
Tunisia suffers from inefficient management of water resources, with over-consumption, especially in agriculture.
By 2030, Tunisia is expecting a warmer and more variable climate. These changes would have a substantial impact on water resources, agriculture and natural resources. Other sectors are also very vulnerable to climate change: health, tourism, and the coastal strip, which is home to much of the country’s activity. Climate change will also put natural resources as well as the main related economic activities under increased pressure. In 2050, the impact will amount to some 0.3% of present GDP. For this reason the environmental dimension must be effectively integrated into management and governance.
Energy use, at 0.08 kilo-tonnes of oil equivalent per USD 1 000 of GDP, is below the world average (0.13) and that (0.18) of the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA). Preliminary studies suggest there is scope for a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions in Tunisia. In the field of energy use and new and renewable energy sources (wind power, solar, sewage farm sludge), Tunisia has a pro-active policy that is to be encouraged.
Starting from the “Arab Spring” Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution put an end to more than two decades of the Ben Ali regime on 14 January 2011. The country seems to have been successful in the first phase of its political transition. After constant pressure from the street following the revolution, progress was made in governance, with a “purge” of the political and administrative class and the expulsion of the party bosses of the old regime. These functionaries left their posts following several reshuffles up until 7 March. Provincial governors and police cadres were replaced and prosecuted.
A new Press Code and a law on press freedom and protection of sources guarantee greater freedom of opinion. Finally, thanks to the efforts of the transition government and under the surveillance of an Independent Electoral Commission, a transparent and peaceful electoral process in which 110 parties took part lead to the election of a Constituent Assembly on 23 October 2011. This is tasked with drafting and submitting to a referendum a new Constitution, overseeing the transition period and organising parliamentary and presidential elections. After protracted haggling, the list of a new government led by Hamadi Jebali of the Islamist Ennahda finally won. Moncef Marzouki, a long-standing opponent of Ben Ali, was elected President of the Republic on 12 December 2011.
The post-electoral period is still tense, because of the scope of the social and economic challenges ahead. Although they were largely peaceful, demonstrations and social pressures were powerful throughout 2011. The state of emergency declared in Tunisia on 14th January remained in force all year. Workers’ strikes demanding permanent jobs or wage increases became more frequent together with the blockading of workplaces by the unemployed demanding to be hired immediately.
Political sensitivity throughout 2012 will have a key role in confronting social pressure, but also in re-establishing confidence among investors and tourists.
Thematic analysis: Promoting Youth Employment
Unemployment rose in 2011 and stands at 18.9% of the workforce, that is to say 738 000 unemployed, of whom seven out of ten are under 30. Of these, 220 000 are young university graduates. These figures, clearly on the rise, are swelled by the return of most Tunisian workers from Libya and the loss of jobs following the 2011 recession. They also show earlier figures may have been underestimated, because of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition, which excludes those discouraged from seeking employment. This said, the percentage of vulnerable workers, though admittedly high (thought to be a third of the working population) is still among the lowest in Africa. The labour market is fairly well structured, and the law offers a certain level of social protection.
Analysis confirms a persistent structural tendency, both in terms of regional disparities and difficulties of entry into the workplace for young graduates. For years already, there has been a paradoxical situation resulting from the shortage of unqualified manpower and double-digit and sharply-rising graduate unemployment. There are many of these graduates, who are only 12% of the population over the age of 10, among the unemployed. Unemployment among this group in 2010 stood at 22.7%, nearly 4 times the rate for unqualified workers. In 2005, the two rates were 14% and 6.3% respectively. Between these dates, the number of unemployed graduates went up from 62 300 to 157 300. This unemployment is persistent.
This situation is explained in part by the rapid increase in student numbers over the last decade. The number of graduates coming into the workforce rose by 9% per annum, compared to a rise in the working population of about 2%. But since 2004, the number of new jobs for graduates has stagnated at around 30 000 a year, while there are an average of 59 600 entering the workforce. Many have to take jobs below their qualification level for which they are underpaid. This led to social unrest, which was a contributory cause of the revolution.
There were seven job creation schemes before the revolution, costing almost 1.5% of GDP and based on financial incentives for hiring young people, and training and mentoring young entrepreneurs.
Concerning incentivising youth employment, the programme called “Prise en Charge par l’Etat de 50% des salaries” (PC50 State Covers 50% of Wages), introduced in 2004, is a wage subsidy covering, for a year, 50% of the wages of young university graduates recruited by the private sector, and restricted to TND 250 a month (EUR 128). The employer is also exempted from social insurance charges for the new employee for seven years. There have been two other schemes since 2002, aiming at bringing young people into the workforce through one-year placements in a company: the “Stage d'initiation à la vie professionnelle” (SIVP Initiation into Work) intended for graduates who have been looking for their first job for at least six months, and the “Contrat d’adaptation et d’insertion professionnelle” (CAIP Adapting to the Workplace Insertion Contract), for third-level graduates. The state provides a monthly allowance of TND 80 to 150 , and pays the intern’s social insurance as well as additional training up to 200 hours for graduates and 400 hours for others. The company undertakes to provide the intern with a complementary monthly allowance, and to give permanent employment to 50% of the interns on the SVIP and 100% in the case of the CAIP. The SIVP was improved in 2009 through better targeting of graduates out of work for more than three years.
The National Employment and Self-Employment Agency (ANETI), with its 91 offices and 1 200 sub-branches throughout the territory, helps match job supply and demand. The PC50 programme has already helped 45 600 young people from 2004 to 2010. The SIVP and CAIP have respectively helped 24 585 and 21 491 young people, each year from 2002 to 2010.
Since 2002 the promotion of entrepreneurship has benefited from the “Programme d’accompagnement des promoteurs des petites enterprises” (PAPPE Programme for Mentoring Promoters of Small Enterprises), strengthened from 2009 on by the programme called “Système initiation administratif à la création des enterprises” (SIACE Administrative Initiation to Setting up a Business), which aims at providing young people setting up on their own with business management skills. In addition, to facilitate small entrepreneurs’ access to bank loans, the “Banque tunisienne de solidarité” (BTS Tunisian Solidarity Bank) has, since January 2003, been tasked with managing loans and micro-loans within the framework of the National Employment Fund (21-21 Fund). There are other schemes to provide funding, especially through the “Fonds de promotion et de décentralisation industrielle” (FORPRODI Industrial Promotion And Decentralisation Fund), the “Fonds national de promotion de l’artisanat et des petits métiers” (FONAPRAM National Artisanal and Trade Promotion Fund) and the “Sociétés d’investissement à capital risqué” (SICAR Venture Capital Investment Companies). These schemes have been strengthened in 2011 to help third-level graduates who have a project, without demanding a personal guarantee, and to extend technical and financial mentoring to the whole conception and start-up cycle for projects.
Rising unemployment forced the interim government to launch an emergency programme called Amal (Arabic for “hope”) in 2011. This programme includes a monthly allowance of TND 150 (EUR 77 ), health insurance and reduced fares on public transport for half-time work in the civil service. The programme already has 142 000 beneficiaries, 53% of whom graduated before 2009 and have been unemployed for more than two years. Moreover, the government has started a permanent-job creation scheme to recruit 24 000 people into the civil service, and 10 000 into semi-state bodies. Nearly 8 000 young people have already been recruited.
The efficacy and viability of these very costly programmes are open to doubt. Moreover, the Amal programme has run up against the inability of training bodies to cope with demand. In November 2011, fewer than 4% of the 142 000 beneficiaries had been able to receive adequate training.
The Tunisian educational system needs reforming so as to deliver qualifications needed by the labour market. Course content fails to develop certain skills demanded by employers. This is what was stressed by recruiters questioned in the course of this study and by the Ministry of Labour’s inquiry in April 2011, which mentions gaps in foreign-language competence. However, Tunisia carried through a successful reform of its educational system, with the introduction in 1992 of short third-level technical education. The “Instituts supérieurs d’études technologiques” (ISET Higher Institutes of Technological Studies) are intended to train the intermediate executives who are needed. Opened in 1995, the ISET proved popular, and the number of graduates went from 800 in 1998 to 7 140 in 2009. They now account for over a quarter of all students. According to a recent study, 82% of ISET graduates have found a job within six months of graduation, while 9% are in further study. Reform of training, research and innovation at national level needs to be speeded up. The creation of guidance counselling to direct Tunisian students towards sectors with good employment prospects should be considered, together with the phasing out of sectors that lead to high unemployment.
The economy absorbs too few qualified workers. The many family-run micro-enterprises (more than 500 000 in 2010) are not able to hire qualified workers. Industry, based on sectors, which have low demand for a qualified workforce (textiles, manufacturing, mechanics), is saturated. Housing development, the most dynamic sector with 62 100 new jobs in four years, including 27 300 in 2010 alone, does not provide many jobs for qualified workers. As for telephone call-centres, whose rapid expansion made it possible to absorb primary degree-level graduates, it has now reached saturation level.
The Tunisian economy will, through a plan to bring current graduates up to speed and an overhaul of the university education cycle, need to develop new technological and service niches for business that will complement existing industries.
Tunisia could also seize the opportunities offered by the strong demand for qualified and unqualified labour coming from the Gulf countries and Libya, by providing support for Tunisian workers. Agriculture will also need to provide increased added value, not only by transforming produce at its place of origin, but also and above all through an improved exploitation of the image and natural savour of the produce of its soil. The important thing is to take efficient short-term measures without creating distortive effects, while hastening long-term structural reform.