More than a quarter of the Middle East's young population will be unemployed in the next five years, a Bahraini minister said yesterday. Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan revealed youth unemployment in the region would be double the global average by 2017, as he addressed a conference in Manama.
Stating that Bahrain's total unemployment rate now stood at 4.3 per cent, he said a key challenge was finding jobs for increasing numbers of young jobseekers.
"According to reports, the unemployment rate among youngsters in the next five years will be about 13 per cent globally, but by 2017 the rate in the Middle East will be about 27 per cent," revealed Humaidan.
He did not discuss Bahrain's predicted unemployment figures for the next five years, but did urge jobseekers to be more flexible when it came to looking for work, during a speech to open the Fifth Human Resource Development Conference and Exhibition at the Gulf Hotel's Gulf Convention Centre.The theme of the conference is 'Challenges of Localisation in the GCC.'
The event has been organised by Bahrain-based Origin Group in co-operation with the Arab Labour Organisation. It ends tomorrow and is being attended by more than 100 delegates from around the Arab world. The exhibition showcases education, training and human development firms.
"The conference will provide constructive proposals to promote policies to integrate youth in the GCC labour market," said Humaidan. Challenges He told ours sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News on the sidelines of the opening that Bahrainis should get equipped to face new challenges and jobs that would result in a reduced dependency on foreign workers. "We certainly encourage our people to be more open and accept new challenges," he said.
"They should be more flexible as this will lead to development of their skills. "I strongly believe that training is the key for the future as we need to constantly develop our workforce for the dynamic labour market." However, he acknowledged that challenges existed and there were not enough skilled Bahrainis.
"Now low-skilled workers are actually dominating the labour market, which negatively affects economic productivity," he said. Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) chief executive officer Ausamah Abdulla Al Absi told the GDN that boosting the skills of Bahrainis was a priority.
"We have to replace low-skilled workers with a highly-skilled workforce for a productive economy," he explained. "It is not about the general attitude of the workforce. We should aim to reduce dependency on low-skilled workers and replace it with highly-skilled staff. "Then, may the best man win."
Senior human resources consultant Abdulellah Al Qassimi, who will submit a paper highlighting how the workforce does not meet labour market requirements, said the right education was vital.
"There are always vacancies, yet people are unemployed," he said. "Clearly there is a skills gap that needs to be addressed." The event is taking place under the patronage of the Labour Minister and continues today.