A combination of LinkedIn and UNESCO’s statistics provide a unique view of the region’s high- and medium-skilled white-collar workforce. Nearly a third of LinkedIn’s tertiary-educated members in the region hold Business Administration and Law degrees, with an emphasis on qualifications in accounting, banking and finance, marketing and business management. The data also reveals the availability of a significant pool of talent focused broadly on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with nearly half of tertiary-educated members in the region holding such degrees. This STEM talent pool is mainly dominated by a specialisation in engineering, manufacturing and construction (29%), with a smaller set of professionals specialised in information and communication technologies (13%) and natural sciences, mathematics and statistics (8%).
Across the region, there is a distinct tendency towards a select number of specialisations, resulting in a somewhat less diversified talent pool compared to other regions, as measured by the 2019 World Economic Forum Global Competitive Index. In the Middle East and North Africa, the United Arab Emirates (25th) lead, followed by Qatar (29th) and KSA (36th); Kuwait is the most improved in the region (46th, up 8 places) while Iran (99th) and Yemen (140th) lose ground. The region has caught up significantly on ICT adoption and many countries boast well developed infrastructure, fibre networking and systems applications that that will improve competitiveness. However, greater investments in human capital are required to transform the countries in the region into more diversified, innovative and creative economies.
With the highest number of hacking attacks recorded in the region per head of population, cyber security preparedness remains a high priority for both the private and public sectors. Crypto Currency adoption is by far the highest in the Middle East. The UAE is one of the few nations in the world where the government has placed special emphasis on promoting crypto currency. In the first quarter of 2019, UAE based blockchain start-ups raised $210m putting the UAE at the top of the world’s top 10 token sale list. A year ago, they were not even on the list.
Demographic and social change
The population of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries has increased from 25m to 53m over the past 20 years. In the UAE and Qatar just 1% of the private sector workforce is made up of nationals. The MENA region has the highest labour market gender gaps in the world. By 2050, elderly nationals will make up 20% of the GCC population compared to only 2% today. Youth unemployment in MENA is among the highest in the world at 28%. In KSA, education expenditure now accounts for almost 25% of total budget spending. Expats make up 89% of the population in the UAE. The region is young, with over 40% of people under the age of 25. The increase in women undertaking University education continues across the region maintaining a projection that by 2024 those available to work will increase by 30%.
The International Monetary Fund’s latest regional outlook report for the Middle East details uncertain economies weighed down by global factors like trade tensions as well as internal and regional turmoil.
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