Arab world faces growing talent gap – report

Oman is least well positioned of the GCC states to attract and retain talent
By Sarah Townsend
Tue 30 May 2017 09:01 AM

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) faces a growing gap between young jobseekers’ skills and the roles available to them, according to a new study.

A joint report by INSEAD Business School, Google and think tank the Center for Economic Growth says the region’s youthful demographic is a blessing and a challenge.

While the new generation are well educated and ambitious, there is a shortage of jobs in the market that match their skills.

The Middle East and North Africa Talent Competitiveness Index (MTCI) ranks countries in the region based on their ability to attract, grow and retain talent.

Countries were ranked based on the level of readiness for the future of work. well positioned (The UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain were “well positioned”; Kuwait and Jordan had “mixed readiness”, while Oman, Lebanon and Tunisia were “less well positioned” and Egypt, Morocco and Algeria were found to have “low readiness”.

Bruno Lanvin, executive director of global indices at INSEAD, said: “From a demographic point of view, the MENA region is younger than the rest of the world, which is both a blessing and a challenge.

“On one hand there is energy, creativity and ambition in the new generation; on the other hand creating enough jobs for them is an urgent necessity.

“Technology is a critical dimension of this challenge as the jobs of the future need to be thought of in areas such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and life-long continuous upskilling.”

The report makes a series of recommendations to MENA countries to improve their ranking, including investment in education and digital skills.

Embracing technology, enabling SMEs and providing affordable and high-quality access to the internet were also among the initiatives found to improve talent competitiveness on a global and regional scale.

Lanvin added: “Now is the time for governments and business in MENA to implement the required policies to take advantage of the opportunities at hand to support entrepreneurship, competitiveness and innovation across the whole region.”

The MENA region has invested considerably in education to improve competitiveness, with an average spend equal to 18 percent of total government spending versus a global average of 14 percent, the report says.

The region also shares demographic factors that are either a help and a hindrance, including a high youth bulge (twice the global average), 30 percent employment in the public sector (versus 10 percent globally); rigid labour market regulations and a gender gap (men are three times more likely to participate in the workforce than women).

Furthermore, the MENA digital economy stands at 4 percent of GDP, half of what the US is at (8 percent) and lags behind the European Union (6 percent), and youth unemployment is high.

Patricia McCall, executive director at the Centre for Economic Growth, said: “With the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, our region’s biggest economic challenge is the creation of productive and sustainable jobs for our youth.

“A key requirement will therefore be developing the talent of the next generation to be competitive for the global economy.”

And Selim Eddé, head of public policy at Google MENA, added: “The Middle East and North Africa has immense potential in its talent and young population.

“Major factors such as embracing technology, enabling the SME ecosystem to thrive, and providing equal access and connectivity, are key ingredients that would help Arab countries leverage the fourth industrial revolution with the many opportunities that lie within the region.”

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