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30% of GCC Youth Face Unemployment


Middle East : 23 October 2011

Source: The Saudi Gazette

GCC youth account for a substantial 30 percent of the working-age population, the UN Population Division’s 2010 report on “World Population Prospects”.

The report said their unemployment is the highest among global regions; on average, only a third of the GCC youth are in the labor force, compared to half of youth globally. Part of the problem is the proliferation of foreigners, the report said, noting that in the GCC, foreign workforce accounts for more than 40 percent of the population and in some countries like the UAE for example, expatriates account for almost 90 percent.

Local youth thus face stiff competition from more experienced multicultural job seekers. Moreover, female workforce participation is half of that of males in the region and the lowest in the world at 22 percent.

With more than half of its natives under the age of 25, the GCC is part of an area that have the second youngest population among world regions. Many employable youth here still do not have jobs due to the prevailing preference for public sector employment among young nationals, limited participation of female professionals, a predominantly expatriate population and workforce, as well as limited technical skills of national manpower.

Another facet of the challenge is the existing imbalance between private and public sector employment, with the latter attracting the majority of national job seekers. Government positions offer long-term job security, higher salaries and an array of attractive benefits such as shorter working-hours, longer holidays and generous pension packages. This reality is reaching a saturation point, however, and the public sector is steadily relinquishing its role as the employer of first and last resort, the report said.

In the 2010 CareerBuilder annual IT hiring forecast, 42 percent of IT employers are expected to increase their number of employees this year, the highest among all industries surveyed.

ICDL GCC Foundation said that a technology-focused education can help balance the region’s employment landscape and give its youth better chances for professional development.

Jamil Ezzo, Director General of the ICDL GCC Foundation, said: “We are being faced with an urgent problem. Young GCC nationals will continue to confront persistent unemployment unless major reforms in the private sector labor market are implemented. The region’s governments need to step up efforts to enhance the employability of young nationals and create diversified opportunities that are likely to appeal to them. More government-initiated growth programs and better retirement plans need to be created to overcome the prevailing reluctance to work in the private sector. Job training provided through internship programs – at no cost to employers and with incentives to participants – is one way of raising competencies and improving the private sector’s confidence in the capability of national human resources.

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