By Claire Ferris-Lay
Lack of workplace engagement biggest threat to nationalization plans, finds report
The GCC must ramp up efforts to boost engagement levels among nationals in the workplace if schemes to increase private sector participation are to bear fruit, the authors of a new report said.
Gulf nationals, particularly females and those under the age of 25, are among the least engaged in the workplace, a study of more than 4,600 nationals by consultancy Aon Hewitt found.
“The region has a fantastic opportunity, on the same scale as the discovery of oil 50 years ago, in terms of tapping into a pool of talent. All the ingredients are here in the same way that they are not in any other place in the world,” David Jones, chief consulting officer at Aon Hewitt, said.
“You’ve got a young, talented, highly educated workforce coming into the workplace and… it has got fantastic financial resources to be able combine with it. If we can get the recipe right, all of the ingredients are there.”
Despite the vast potential that a booming young population and the oil-rich economy has on developing the national workforce, not enough is being done to encourage more nationals to enter the private sector, the study found.
Engagement amongst nationals is “alarmingly” low and is likely to be the biggest hurdle in the battle in encouraging more GCC nationals to work in the private sector. Across the GCC engagement levels are 54 percent, slightly lower than the global average, but are significantly lower (47 percent) amongst the 25-35 year age bracket.
Emiratis are the least satisfied in their jobs with the lowest level of engagement in the GCC at 46 percent followed by Bahrainis at 49 percent.
Localising jobs has been a long-term goal for many regional governments but efforts are being stepped up as Gulf states look to reduce their reliance on imported labour and diversify their economies away from oil.
The population across the GCC is expected to increase 30 percent to 53.3 million from 2000 to 2020. In order to keep pace with population growth, the region must create 85 million jobs in the next nine years, the report said.
Saudi Arabia launched a quota system in June aimed at boosting the number of Saudi nationals in the workforce. Expatriates account for nine out of every 10 private sector jobs in the Arab world’s largest economy.
High expectations amongst nationals and western practices in the workplace must dramatically change in order to boost engagement, said Radhika Punshi, head of applied research at Aon Hewitt Middle East. “Pay is one of the top five things that nationals but what is even more important for them is career growth, learning and development and recognition,” she said.
“One strong message to the private sector is stop competing on pay and focus on the other aspects. The private sector can do that so much better because they can provide better career opportunities and better learning opportunities.”
Until the mindset of the Emirati work force changes there will never be a successful integration into the private sector. Companies can only provide so much - they have to remain competitive and profitable - the rest is up to the Emirati people. After 20 years of living here I do not see it happening for a generation.....and that is if we start now!! The government also needs to equalise pay and conditions with the private sectior - yes that will mean pay cuts and shorter holidays for their emplpoyees but how else are they going to get them to move out of the public sector and start working for a living in private companies?
You are absolutely right. I think there is another obstacle, which is stopping emiratis to work in the private sector. This is the dream of most young people here to start their own company (meaning being the local partner of somebody elso who will do all the work) instead of (really) working for somebody else. As long as this super easy way of getting money for basically doing nothing exists, nobody will start thinking of working for somebody else in the first place.