Youth unemployment in Middle East
A staggering one in four of the Middle East's 15-24 year-olds is now out of work. According to consulting firm Booz and Company, this is double the global average of 12.8% and the highest of any region in the world.
While the quality of education, predominance of public sector economic activity and lack of skills investment all contribute to this problem, we consistently find that young people feel they don't understand the business sector sufficiently or know how to access employment. Similarly, academics lack awareness of the private sector’s needs and the overall skill set required to support effective socio-economic growth. Businesses also complain they don’t have enough access to top talent, so struggle to find ways to engage with the local community, particularly young people.
Part of the problem lies with the misperception about what constitutes a private business. This was illustrated when we surveyed some young Emirati women and found many assumed that ‘private sector’ simply meant banking. Together with their male counterparts, they were much more drawn to the public sector because that’s where their friends and family worked.
Organisations have a duty to develop talent, which is a critical factor for commercial success. Technology and other hard assets can be bought in but talent makes an organisation efficient, innovative, pioneering and successful. Companies that neglect staff development miss the key to their future success. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your team grow and develop professional skills, confidence and leadership skills.
Increasingly, many businesses are realising that they are differentiated by their people and how they are developed. But these examples are not systemic or economy-wide. We need to get to a place where all organisations acknowledge that investing in talent is exactly that: an investment that yields return.
Encouraging inclusion Kafaat programme
Our Kafa’at programme aims to unlock Emirati talent and develop career pathways to the private sector. It provides a range of initiatives to cultivate skills in soft leadership, team building, decision-making and problem-solving through training, leadership camps and mentorships.
We offer ‘taster days’ inviting young people to experience an office environment for the day. We are also looking at innovative ways of connecting employers with young people for internships and other forms of engagement, so both sides develop greater mutual familiarity and understanding.
We live in an increasingly global, highly wired and dynamic environment where the range of opportunities is vast and difficult to navigate. I would like to see young people receive more comprehensive support to help them address the complex choices of the 21st century – whether this is around their career choice or professional development.
All sectors need to recognise that our ability to engage and deploy young talent is critical to the future socio-economic progress of the region. Talent is the most critical developmental agenda item on our radar screen today.