Opportunities for Young Arabs
The Middle East’s unprecedented growth over the past three decades has transformed its economic landscape, guided by its efficient governance, thousands of project companies and stakeholders that have been instrumental to this growth story.
However, the year 2016 was extremely challenging for the Gulf economies. The impact of the fall in oil prices from mid-2014 considerably slowed the regional growth. It was characterised by drastic cuts in spending and deficits coupled with job losses.
The Middle East national oil companies due to reduced oil export revenues took serious cost-cutting measures, resulting in job cuts and salaries. Private sector forced layoffs and suspended hiring.
With more than 25% of the youth population without a job, the region’s youth unemployment rate is the highest in the world at present. In Saudi Arabia, it is expected to increase from 33.5% in 2015 to 42.4% in 2030. As per the estimates, 85 million jobs need to be created in the region by 2023 to be on par with global average rate of unemployment.
The growing young population in the Gulf could be its biggest opportunity, if utilized well. The governments must ensure they are developing the burgeoning educated youth in terms of their business skills, technical expertise and soft skills to take advantage of the future opportunities. They must take steps to reform the region’s education systems. Many initiatives have already been taken by the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to make the youth more employable.
The utilization of vast human resources will be crucial for regional growth. In part, it is to be addressed with the reform programmes in the region that aims to stimulate private sector, end single commodity-dependence and develop various other sectors.
Gulf Petrochemicals Association reported that the multibillion dollar projects to come on-stream between 2020 and 2024 will contribute up to 4,000 new jobs. Developing the sector is in line with the regional reforms agenda to diversify its oil export-dependent economy and create jobs for nationals.
Trade, transport and technology will also help drive diversification and provide more work opportunities in the region. Similarly, the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) hold the potential to create opportunities for the millions entering the jobs markets every year. Saudi’s Vision 2030 strategy could create 200,000 jobs by 2030.
Though joblessness of the youth is perhaps one of the major concerns among the Gulf nations today, the long-term prospects remain bright and strongly supportive of growth.