JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—In the wide stretch of the Middle East bypassed by revolution, Arab spring turned to Arab summer peacefully but not altogether promisingly for the Arab world's largest-ever surge of young people. In Saudi Arabia, more than half-a-million proud high school and college seniors crossed the stage at graduation ceremonies. The new graduates step into a job market featuring the highest regional youth unemployment rate in the world.
Around the Gulf, gold prices are hitting their annual summer spike for the wedding season, as young men lucky enough to have the means shower dowries upon their beloved, and launch their adult lives as respectable married men.
For older Saudi men fortunate enough to have government jobs, summer this year means flying off with the wife and kids for summer vacations in Europe and Turkey. The families, and Euro Disney, are reaping the benefits of revolution in the Arab world. That's thanks to a two-month salary bonus that Saudi King Abdullah ordered to maintain the prevailing peace in his kingdom, as part of a massive public-benefits package intended to stave off unrest. (Owing to the troubles, Gulf vacationers are staying away from closer holiday spots in Egypt and Lebanon this summer.)
In her mother's home in the coastal city of Jeddah, Nada Jan, a 26-year-old with a special-education major and a bachelor's degree who is losing her drive after a nearly four-year job search, stirs in her sleep and yawns.
As horrible as the roughly 40 percent unemployment figures are for Arab young people overall, they're worse for any ambitious college-educated Saudi women, analysts say: 30 percent of Saudi women of all ages looking for jobs can't find any, and 78 percent of the fruitlessly job-seeking women have university degrees.
For young men, prospects aren't much better. Behind a sales counter at a mall in Riyadh, 21-year Abdul Rahman Saeed -- like Nada, a Saudi in a national labor market overwhelmed by the flood of cheap labor from South Asia -- sells mobile phones. In between chats with customers about phone accessories, he despairs of ever pulling a job with enough salary to marry the love of his young life.
All is calm here in Saudi Arabia, but that doesn't mean all is well.
Just when a rising wave of young Saudis is hitting the job market, in a generational surge of tens of millions of new workers expected to subside in the kingdom only around 2050, and just when Arab governments most want youth jobs for the sake of stability, economists are concluding that decades of effort by Gulf governments to get their young into the labor market have fallen short -- way short.