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Young, out of work, and unemployable
The Middle East has a large pool of young people able to fill gaps in the workforce. So where are they?
April 14, 2010 4:47 by Glenn Freeman
Clearly, education plays a crucial role in equipping the overwhelmingly young local populations for the workforce (both private and public sector) and addressing this disparity between expatriates and nationals. This is why, in recent years, the U.A.E. has committed $10 billion to education. In the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, U.A.E. prime minister and ruler of Dubai, this is geared to “build a knowledge-based society throughout the region and enhance the standing of scholars and intellectuals in the Arab world.”
But, as Arkless explains, education is not a silver bullet to solve the problem. He asks: “Are the youth making the transition from training to employment?”
Although a dearth of targeted research across the Middle East means that no hard figures are available, Arkless points to anecdotal evidence suggesting that, once they complete training, many Emiratis can take three or four years before beginning work. This prompts him to ask another rhetorical question: “Are governments across the Arab world doing enough to motivate nationals to join the workforce?”
Arkless identifies another part of the problem, one which he sees as peculiar to the Middle East. Because of the status it holds as the world’s most cash-rich region thanks to its vast oil reserves, companies from Europe, China, and the rest of the world have been desperate to do business here – and to recruit locals to help them win the most lucrative contracts.
“In many cases, those locals who do get the best training are then hired to work in places outside of the Middle East, to assist foreign companies in their business ventures within the Arab world. This just further accentuates the region’s shortfall in talent,” he said.
Boosting the spirit of entrepreneurship among local Arab populations is vital, because locally based businesses will naturally create more jobs for local populations. This is where business schools such as INSEAD see an opportunity. The international graduate business school with campuses in Europe, Asia, and now the U.A.E. believes demand for its courses will be strong as it seeks to create the region’s next generation of innovative business leaders.
As INSEAD’s Dean, and Arkless’ fellow W.E.F. co-chair, Frank Brown, said: “This region is a very entrepreneurial environment which demonstrates … rapid change. This is one of the reasons we were attracted to the Middle East.”