The death knell for migrant workers in the Middle East?
The Middle East is no longer dependent on executive expertise from Western expatriates, said an expert, adding that those already in the region are too expensive.
Metin Mitchell, managing director of Metin Mitchell & Co, an own executive search and management advisory firm in the region, went on to say that Western expatriates in the region are now in direct competition with talent from “distressed markets” such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland who will come and work for less.
Mitchell was speaking at the recent Middle East Management Forum organised by London Business School in Dubai.
A new era of executive recruitment is quickly unfolding in the Middle East, according to the panel of industry specialists who shared their insights at the forum.
Recruitment trends in the region were discussed by the panel of experts who shared their views on the latest workforce developments being seen in the region. The session was conducted as part of London Business School’s thought leadership forums which provide key insights into the Middle East marketplace.
Some of the outcomes from the panel discussions included:
• The Middle East is still an attractive place for international talent, but there is growing competition from emerging markets, including China, India, Brazil, countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America.
• The main markets for recruitment growth in the region are Saudi Arabia and Qatar (particularly in infrastructure for both countries), with Lebanon also providing a growing level of opportunity.
• Nationalisation is becoming more of a focus in the GCC countries, with a significant movement in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seeing nationals looking to negotiate 40-50% on their present packages.
• Companies are now looking for Arabic speakers first, as they provide much greater integration and a broader network, according to the panelists.
• Multinational corporations are not recruiting at the levels they were before the global economic downturn. They have large entrenched workforces around the world where they move people from A to B.
• Despite the considerable economic and political uncertainty in many parts of the world, the executive search industry has held up surprisingly well. At the end of this year, it is expected the industry will be at its third highest level ever for worldwide revenues, according to the panelists.
A key discussion area of the panel session focused on the fast changing needs of the workforce in the region and the developments being seen in recruiting expatriate talent.
“With the exception of certain key talented CEOs, I am of the firm belief that across all sectors now the age of the Western expatriate in the Middle East is over,” said Mitchell.
“Western expatriates are no longer required. They don’t provide any particular value that can’t be found in other nationalities either locally or from other parts of the world.
“Western expatriates now need to be thinking about taking their careers elsewhere such as Sub-Saharan Africa where there is demand and where there are job opportunities. We now need to think about this region differently – it’s growing up and it’s mature.”
Mark Houghton, managing partner of Odgers Berndtson, said his company, however, continues to place many Western expats from the region.
“We are certainly seeing more coming from distressed markets that are showing more flexibility in packages but regionally located expat candidates continue to offer great value and knowledge to clients,” Houghton said.
Jonathan Holmes, managing director of Korn Ferry International, agreed the Middle East continues to grow at levels far exceeding the vast majority of the world.
“This spawns tremendous opportunity for talent,” said Holmes. “Regional conglomerates are focusing on recruiting and retaining high quality, world-class professionals from all over the globe, irrespective of ethnicity.”
Dr Nairouz Bader, CEO of Vision Executive Search added that in the Middle East, specifically the life science, oil and gas, the chemical and the retail sectors are growing significantly.
“Functions such as market access, sales and marketing as well as very technical positions are being urgently requested. As other emerging markets have evolved, talent has become more scarce. The Middle East is in competition with talent with the rest of the world - it is not only competing with its own anymore, it is competing on a global level,” he said.
Students from London Business School were present at the panel discussion which was also part of providing access to leading recruiters from global companies looking to hire graduates from the School. There were also company presentations from Bloomberg, Eli Lilly, Booz and Company and Delta Partners