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
The global skills gap was among the raft of issues tabled at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, where the W.E.F.’s Global Agenda Council on the skills gap identified talent shortages as a considerable threat to the global economy.
Closer to home, in the Middle East low employment levels and a lack of locally driven economic growth has plagued the region for many years.
One of the co-chairs of the above-mentioned W.E.F. Global Agenda Council is David Arkless, president of corporate and government affairs, Manpower Inc. Arkless recently spoke about the Middle East’s experience of labor shortages and unemployment – particularly among young people – at an INSEAD leadership forum in Abu Dhabi. Organized by the international graduate business school, which
recently opened its first Middle East campus in the U.A.E. capital, the forum pulled together business leaders from the region.
“I don’t think the issue or the potential ongoing influence of this on young people, or the economy, is being talked about enough,” said Arkless.
“It’s discussed in the inner circles of governments of the region, but not publicly, and I believe it is a serious issue. After all, this is why the Saudi Arabian government is allocating so much money to education and training.”
Arkless cited unemployment figures of 35 percent in Egypt and around 30 percent across Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as proof that more needs to be done to encourage youth into the workforce and to boost locally based enterprise. He believes that robust research is a crucial early step in addressing these issues.
“It always strikes me that most labor and economic policy is developed on the basis of historical trends – everybody looks backwards. But what you need to do is forecast the future needs, looking across different sectors and geographical regions, to establish exactly what talent is needed and how to incentivize people,” said Arkless.
“This is currently not done comprehensively anywhere in the Arab world, which generally has very poorly crafted plans for human resources provisioning.” Arkless explains that he has worked with the U.A.E. Labor Ministry in identifying some of the labor resources it will need to meet economic growth targets. However, he believes that the scale of work involved in conducting further, more detailed research across the Middle East is creating reluctance.