GCC countries still have a long way to go to create a sustainable job creation engine for their local populations, although some progress has been made in recent years, according to a new study.
Titled “Taking a more sophisticated approach to GCC labour market policy ”, it was commissioned by the Dubai Government Summit, and was completed in collaboration with consultants McKinsey and Company.
The study was done through surveys across the GCC, with the participation of 800 to 1,200 people from each country.
“GCC countries are very different from each other. The challenges they face are different — from unemployment to productivity , to female participation, to mismatches between employer and employee expectations,” it says.
Hence, broadly similar policy approaches of the past such as Saudisation, Bahrainisation and Emiratisation will need to be changed. Governments need to adopt more complex and targeted labour policies  and need to carefully adapt their interventions to match the different profile of young people, the study recommends.
In the UAE only 9 per cent of Emiratis surveyed were unemployed, which is an exceptionally low level by regional standards. Also, men were found to be twice as likely to be unemployed as women and those under 25 are three times more likely to be unemployed unlike those above 36.
“In Saudi Arabia, in contrast, double the level of unemployment was found (18 per cent). The unemployed population is diverse, with highly educated women being the largest segment and men if unemployed were likely to have a low level of education.”
In the UAE, 61 per cent of Emiratis surveyed worked with the public sector. The working hours in the UAE’s private sector was found to be longer with 54 per cent of private sector employees surveyed saying they worked more than 40 hours, in comparison with 18 per cent of public sector employees. While most public sector employees work less than 40 hours (82 per cent of them), only 46 per cent of private sector employees do so.
The study called for development of an integrated reform agenda and also detailed a roadmap to achieve this.