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Inflation is forcing youth in the Middle East to take on multiple jobs

Young employees are experiencing mental health strains juggling multiple jobs

Inflation is forcing youth in the Middle East to take on multiple jobs
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

At 26, Wael El-Meniawy manages a full-time job alongside occasional gig work. Now, he’s actively seeking a third job at the moment.

His motivation for multiple roles stems from his ambition to augment his income and gain a competitive edge in his career. He aims to amass more experience than those opting for a single-job approach.

Unsurprisingly, El Meniawy’s decision is primarily influenced by Egypt’s current economic instability. “I don’t think anyone can afford to live a decent, or at least somewhat decent, life without having more than one income.”

“With inflation and the current economic climate, everything is getting more expensive with every passing day,” he adds.

Having a stable job nowadays is a privilege. And so, some are trying their luck having two, if not more, jobs.

In the MENA region, in some countries, a generation’s dreams and aspirations are being tested by the harsh realities of an unstable economic landscape.

Many young people are turning to multiple jobs to make ends meet. Juggling numerous responsibilities and navigating the complexities of the workforce, young people strive to secure their livelihoods and build a future for themselves. 

According to the World Bank’s projections, by the end of 2023, only eight of the 15 MENA economies will have reclaimed their pre-pandemic real GDP per capita levels.

From 2020 to 2022, the global economic upheavals dealt a severe blow to employment rates across the region, possibly driving an additional 5.1 million individuals into unemployment.

“If the region grows slowly, how will the 300 million young people who will be knocking at the door of the labor market by 2050 find jobs with dignity?” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the MENA region. 

Inflation rates in the Middle East region stand among the highest globally, registering at 13.9%, twice the global rate of 6.9%. 

Mohammad Al Najjar, Talent Acquisition Partner at Smarter AI, says freelancing was popular before the pandemic. “Although more full-time employees are pursuing side hustles, the Gen Z generation is leading the trend, especially with the rise of social media and e-commerce. Most popular side hustles are graphic design, CV writing, and technology sectors.”

Al Najjar elaborates that employees frequently refrain from disclosing such information to their employers due to fear of repercussions. They worry that any mistake or shortfall would be attributed directly to their second job, impacting their performance or being held against by their employer.

El Meniawy highlights young people’s desire for self-sufficiency and financial independence. “These are basic goals, but they’ve become impossible to pursue with just one income, even if they are sizable. So, many choose to burn their wings in the pursuit of more money and recognition that may lead to more rewarding job opportunities so that they can live the life they’ve envisioned for themselves and hope that they’ll be able to keep going even when the economy takes another nosedive.”

Al Najjar says inflation is one of the primary reasons why young people pursue multiple jobs. “People need to diversify their income sources, and with the energy young people have, they feel they can do more to get ahead. 

Maha Botros, who heads Organizational Psychology at O7 Therapy, observes that economic instability pressures young individuals to meet and surpass societal expectations. 

This pressure stems from rising living expenses, stagnant wages, and the uncertainty of the precarious employment scene, compelling them to take on multiple roles. Coping with these expectations can lead to feelings of inadequacy, overwhelming stress, and self-doubt.

“Another consequence of economic instability is uncertainty about the future, which causes young people to worry about their opportunities and ability to support their families and fulfill their goals. This uncertainty can lead to fear, anxiety, and a loss of confidence in their ability to navigate the challenges ahead,” Botros says.


While working multiple jobs might get young people closer to their economic goals, this strain can cause adverse effects on their mental health.

As per McKinsey & Company’s report addressing employee health in the Middle East, approximately two-thirds of GCC participants either exhibited signs of deteriorating mental health or received a diagnosis of a mental health condition. Additionally, one in every three GCC respondents reported experiencing symptoms associated with burnout.

Botros says that juggling multiple jobs with minimal sleep heightens the risk of burnout, leading to enduring mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and diminished feelings of accomplishment.

Balancing numerous job strains can also strain relationships. “Having little time and energy could make keeping close relationships with loved ones challenging. Furthermore, relationships may suffer due to impatience, mood fluctuations, and diminished emotional availability brought on by the stress and exhaustion of working several jobs.”

Frequent job juggling leads to diminished leisure, limited social interactions, and missed significant social events, leaving young individuals feeling isolated, lonely, and with reduced well-being.

El-Meniawy says juggling multiple jobs is stressful. “It puts you in constant pressure as you race against the next deadline or sprint through multiple tasks.”

He explains that the workload often forces him to operate like a machine to complete his tasks. “Once you acknowledge that you’re burnt out, the stress compounds, and you start feeling irritable and become largely non-productive. Once I reach that point, I start scrambling to get a week or so off, but then you have to find a week that both jobs are willing to give you off.”


Al Najjar emphasizes the dual facets of juggling multiple jobs, outlining the advantages and pitfalls. While the risks encompass being overburdened, striving to meet elevated expectations, and grappling with conflicting schedules, multiple jobs offer opportunities to diversify knowledge and income streams. They provide freedom from conventional employment patterns, mitigating the risk of job loss due to redundancy or the obsolescence of industries and roles.

For well-being and manage stress effectively when working multiple jobs, Botros offers guidance:

Prioritize self-care: Managing stress and preventing burnout hinges on prioritizing self-care. This involves maintaining a balanced diet, ensuring adequate sleep, and regular exercise.

Establish boundaries: When handling multiple jobs, delineating clear boundaries between work and personal life is crucial. Communicating and upholding these boundaries with coworkers and employers is essential.

Seek support: Young individuals need to seek help when needed. This might involve confiding in trusted friends and family about challenges and emotions or seeking advice from experts in relevant fields. A mental health professional can offer further support if stress and burnout persist.

Take breaks: Regular breaks and vacations are vital for relaxation and rejuvenation. Even brief pauses throughout the day can help alleviate stress. Scheduling and taking vacations allow the opportunity to disconnect from work, unwind, and engage in activities that alleviate burnout in the long run.

“Also, know your limits by setting reasonable goals and expectations. Adopting stress-relief techniques like journaling, breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation, and creative pursuits,” adds Botros. 

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