Close Skills Gaps and Gender Gaps to Prepare MENA for the Future of Jobs

T
he Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is endowed with a young, growing and increasingly well-educated population, which, if skilled for tomorrow’s jobs and offered new and productive employment opportunities, has the potential to significantly enhance the region’s growth.

However, with 31% of young people unemployed, new and urgent action is needed to realize this potential. In addition, even when skilled talent is present – particularly educated women – it is not being deployed effectively in the workforce.

The analysis in the new report, Future of Jobs and Skills in MENA: Preparing the Region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, released today, also finds that there is no room for complacency. Few of MENA’s economies are fully prepared for the impending disruption to jobs and skills brought about by technological change. The crucial question for the region, therefore, is how to capitalize on this short-term demographic and technological window of opportunity and prepare its working-age population as well as today’s schoolchildren for the future of work. The report aims to serve as a practical guide for business, government, civil society and education leaders.

Key findings from the report, which uses new data from LinkedIn, include:

Young people are almost five times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts in the region. However, in contrast to global patterns, graduates make up nearly one-third of the total pool of unemployed in the region.

The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia lead the way in the local availability of high-skilled jobs. Common forms of high-skilled employment in the MENA region include commercial bankers, accountants, school teachers and academics, engineers and information technology consultants, according to LinkedIn’s data. Tracking trends in the growth and decline of roles in MENA labour markets reveals a growing demand for health, education, care, personal services as well as creative, travel and tourism professionals.

As the region already faces a skills gap according to business leaders, the region will need to prepare current and future workforces for the future of jobs, particularly high-skilled roles, to remain competitive. Analysis suggests that 41% of all work activities in Kuwait are susceptible to automation, as are 46% in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, 47% in the UAE, 49% in Egypt, 50% in Morocco and Turkey, and 52% in Qatar. Reskilling and upskilling sections of the workforce that are likely to be affected will also be critical for the region to manage the transformations underway in the labour market.

Often having higher levels of educational attainment and workplace skills, women in MENA represent significant human capital potential. However, workforce gender gaps remain wide, ranging from just over 40% in Kuwait and Qatar to nearly 80% in Algeria and Jordan. Integrating more female talent will be a key pathway for workforce planning in the region.

“The data show that, to prepare for the future of work, the region must take action to invest in talent, close skills and gender gaps and create high-value-adding jobs to unlock the potential of a young population and to equip economies to tackle the challenges of the 21st century,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Education, Gender and Work System Initiative and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.

Action is underway to meet these jobs and skills challenges and opportunities in MENA. As part of the broader efforts of the World Economic Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Education, Gender and Work, projects to advance skills and gender parity in the region are being scaled up and will be further developed at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, to be held in Jordan on 19-21 May.

To prepare workforces for the future of jobs, the New Vision for Arab Employment (NVAE) project serves as a platform providing new insight and bringing together business efforts to address future-oriented skills development. The project also supports constructive public-private dialogue for urgent and fundamental reform of education systems and labour policies.

“Our region, with its young population, stands ready to gain from its enormous human potential – but we need to do our part to make it happen. We need to do more to skill the population for jobs, now and in the future, and to provide the high-value employment this region needs to excel through the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The New Vision for Arab Employment contributes to this goal and is committed to creating a lasting impact on the MENA region,” said Omar K. Alghanim, Chief Executive Officer, Alghanim Industries and Chair of the NVAE.

The NVAE has garnered commitments from businesses across MENA to provide employability skills to 250,000 people in the region. The project is inviting businesses, in partnership with government, civil society and the education and training sectors, to scale this action and contribute to broader targets to skill, upskill or reskill 1 million people by 2018 and 5 million people by 2020 in MENA, Africa and other regions.

To help close workplace gender gaps, the Gender Parity Task Force model brings public- and private-sector leaders together to better understand the barriers to women progressing in the workplace and to take action to accelerate progress. The task force model – previously piloted in four countries and now being scaled across the world – focuses on shifting stereotypes about women in work, increasing female participation in the labour market at all levels, and closing the gender wage gap. Bahrain will be the first country in MENA to implement this enhanced model, acting as a trailblazer in the region for this collaborative action on gender parity.

“With relatively high rates of female education, Bahrain stands to make significant economic gains from integrating more women into the workforce. Progress is already underway in the country and we look forward to building on this through a new Gender Parity Task Force, working across the public and private sectors to accelerate change,” said Khalid Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board.

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