Not your average brain drain
The Arab World continues to suffer from staggering unemployment rates. Are regional governments doing enough to curb the region’s brain drain?
December 8, 2009 10:28 by Tania Tabar
There has been a recent move by some Gulf States to bridge this gap, although it has been largely unsuccessful. For nationals, poor work ethics and a general reluctance to shift to the private are only some of the reasons why the gap remains.
Frankly, it is little wonder why nationals are reluctant to move into the private sector; public employees are usually paid twice as much as the private sector, while receiving excellent benefits and working shorter hours.
It seems like a contradiction: double-digit levels of youth unemployment and a need for foreign labor. But although unemployment is high among youth, many refuse to work in ‘low-level’ fields where there is a great demand, such as construction and mining. Meanwhile, the public sector remains overstaffed.
In 2005 in Saudi Arabia, unemployment reached 11 percent, 28 percent of which were males aged between 20 to 24 years old. In the UAE, overall unemployed numbers were 12 percent, which included 33 percent of the country’s youth.
“Unless the region’s job growth is fast enough to accommodate the upcoming surge, unemployment among locals will continue to rise,” said Kito de Boer, managing director of McKinsey & Company said in a conference in Dubai in 2008. “Disparities in wealth will grow and the further import of foreign workers will place increasing pressure on the most vulnerable members of the nation.”
The Gulf States are making attempts to develop their nationals, having invested $22 billion in 2003 to 2008 to build or import research and training institutions of the world’s highest standards. Some countries have also attempted to implement legislation in a bid to reduce the dependency of citizens on government jobs and expand the private sector.