Empowering the GCC digital workforce

Building adaptable skills in the digital era

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Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries need to create a highly skilled and adaptable digital job market.

There are currently fewer digital jobs in the GCC than in benchmarked countries. The average percentage of digital jobs within the total GCC workforce is only 1.7 percent, much less than the EU average of 5.4 percent.

Expatriates currently hold most digital jobs in the GCC. Nationals prefer more traditional career options such as in business, economics, and the public sector — areas that are at high risk of disruption.

Developing the digital job market in the region has the potential to create 1.3 million additional digital jobs in the GCC by 2025.

The report draws from a joint Strategy& and LinkedIn analysis of the supply and demand dynamics of the GCC digital job market. The report presents a comprehensive set of recommendations that will help GCC governments develop their digital job markets.

Empowering the GCC digital workforce

GCC countries need to create more digital jobs

Digital jobs
Digital jobs are more adaptable in the face of technological disruption, especially those related to emerging technologies. The growth of such jobs will help nationals move from largely administrative jobs in the government sector to higher-value-added roles in industries with future importance.
Digital employment
Digital employment involves more flexible work models which can increase labor force participation rates, particularly among women.
A skilled digital workforce
A skilled digital workforce is essential in the implementation of GCC economies’ ambitious plans and the digital transformation of organizations across sectors.

GCC digital professionals lack the skills that recruiters are seeking

Digital skills

Digital professionals in the GCC do not yet have the advanced technical skills that are necessary in the digital age. Their skills are mainly soft and managerial (such as project management and team leadership), while advanced technical skills are more prevalent in developed countries. Also, those skills that are most highly prized by employers – across all industries and all types of jobs – are virtually absent among GCC digital professionals.

The skill gap grows out of root causes in supply and demand of digital jobs:

Supply-related challenges

  • Limited academic preparation
    for digital skills
  • Inadequate professional
    development environment
  • Limited interest in
    pursuing digital careers
Limited academic preparation for digital skills

The GCC education system is not keeping up with the pace of technological change. Digital-related courses at universities are generic and outdated. Teachers lack the sufficient technology expertise required due to low wages and inadequate school management.

At the same time, the GCC’s technical and vocational education and training sector (TVET) has low enrolment rates. Its development has not been placed as a priority, leading to limited government or private funding.

As a result, 93% of GCC digital professionals graduated from foreign universities.

Inadequate professional development environment

Currently, too many digital professionals lack the skill requirements for the modern workplace. This is due to the lack of interaction between employers and educational institutions and a low focus on apprenticeships or internships programs for graduates.

In addition, digital professionals in the region are often not provided with on the job training opportunities and reskilling programs to continuously upgrade their digital skills.

Limited interest in pursuing digital careers

The fields of business and economics retain the highest popularity among university students.

Also, GCC nationals prefer stable employment such as public sector jobs.

Demand-related challenges

  • Low digitization
    across sectors
  • Weak digital
    industry
  • Underdeveloped entrepreneurship
    ecosystem
Low digitization across sectors

There is limited adoption of emerging digital technologies in all sectors in the GCC because of insufficient understanding of digitization. Companies also lack the strategic direction necessary for digital transformation.

Weak digital industry

ICT companies in the region are primarily engaged in sales and services, at the expense of product development, innovation and research and development (R&D) activities. As a result, the few current digital jobs are largely focused on sales.

Underdeveloped entrepreneurship ecosystem

The entrepreneurship ecosystem is underdeveloped because of inadequate regulatory and legal frameworks such as access to finance, registration, and licensing. There is also insufficient entrepreneurship education and limited investment in research and development. This results in the region having few startups at the forefront of innovation.

GCC countries need to address immediate needs in their digital market ecosystem by boosting supply and demand of digital jobs.

Practical initiatives

Government-led initiatives to boost supply and create demand in the digital job market can only succeed if GCC governments form partnerships with other stakeholders, including technology players, educational institutions, and the corporate sector.

Meet the experts

Ali Matar
Head of Talent Solutions for EMEA Emerging Markets, Middle East & Africa, LinkedIn

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