The future of jobs and skills in the Middle East and North Africa

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The future of jobs and skills in the Middle East and North Africa

The future of jobs

The creative disruption brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents both a challenge and unique opportunity for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)’s region workforce. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs analysis revealed that in contrast to 2015, 21 percent of core skills required across all occupations will be different by 2020 in the GCC as will be 41 percent of those in Turkey. Digital work is increasing across the world, including the MENA region.

Across MENA, digital channels have the means to create significant benefits by moving individuals from informal to formal jobs by enhancing workforce participation. They also help to increase the working hours of those formerly underemployed or inactive by reducing the the duration of job searches and allowing matches that would otherwise not occur. By 2025, this can result in as much as 945,000 additional full-time equivalent jobs and a USD 21 billion surge in GDP in Egypt, 799,000 jobs and USD 41 billion in Turkey, and 276,000 jobs and USD 32 billion additional GDP in Saudi Arabia. Similarly, organisations in MENA will have to gradually learn to manage a distributed and virtual workforce, to integrate virtual freelance workers and to mitigate the challenges engaging in online work.

Future-ready strategies

For a positive outlook of the future jobs in MENA to actualise, investment in human capital will not only have to aim to urgently close the region’s skills gap today, but also to start establishing skills required to effectively leverage on the advancement of technologies.

There is a significant skills mismatch among youth in the MENA region today. Close to 40 percent of the employers in the region pointed out that skills gaps are detrimental to business advancement and numerous countries in the region are currently falling below the global average in the ease of searching for skilled employees.

The region is also beginning to encounter the issue of inter-generational differences in styles of work and communication, which will require both careful attention to employability skills and management of inter-generational change. With the MENA region’s ‘replacement ratio’ of 4–6 new job market entrants for each person leaving the workforce, the need for action is crucial.

Recommendations for the development of stronger education systems include:

  • Widening of access of early-childhood education
  • Ensuring the ‘future-readiness’ of curricula
  • Investing in developing and maintaining a professionalised teaching workforce
  • Early exposure to the workforce and career guidance
  • Investing in digital fluency and ICT literacy skills
  • Providing robust and respected technical and vocational education and training (TVET)
  • Creating a culture of lifelong learning
  • Openness to education innovation

It is also critical to note that the leadership of reforms must be drawn from various sectors, access is universal regardless of gender and that new education systems are designed for the long-term, while maintaining agility to cope with the accelerating pace of change.

Opportunities for public-private collaboration

The MENA region is in a compelling need for investments and reforms to bolster its workforces for the future economy and labor market. The region’s public and private sectors will have to collaborate to make certain that the talent pool is expanded and better skilled for the future.

The first key challenge of the region is to align the countries’ skills development agendas to the needs of the future labor market. Currently, few of the MENA region’s economies are ready for the imminent disruption brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution relative to the region’s exposure to these emerging trends.

Industry leaders in the region point out a prevailing lack of alignment of organisation’s talent strategies with their broader innovation strategies as the major obstacle to future workforce planning. Other obstacles include resource constraints and the lack of comprehension towards the ongoing disruptive changes in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Therefore, the New Vision for Arab Employment serves as a platform to help address the coordination challenge and accelerate the closure of skills gap.

A second structural challenge in the MENA region is that investments in female education have not translated into commensurate employment gains for women. Although there is a greater ratio of women to men attending university in most of the countries covered by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index (95 out of 145) and the average gender gap in tertiary education is below 10 percent; men still outnumber women in skilled jobs. Therefore, the Gender Parity Task Forces serves to entice organisations, government and civil society actors with the ability to include more women in the nation’s economy.

Source: World Economic Forum

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