x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A shift in attitude is required in the GCC

The GCC needs to move towards “more protective means and high value-added services and manufacturing" to tackle the increasing rates of unemployment.

The GCC countries have experienced rapid development in recent years, investing heavily in infrastructure projects, a sector that provides plenty of jobs, especially for expatriates. International Monetary Fund reports show that about seven million new jobs have been created during the past decade across the GCC, but 70 per cent of these jobs went to expatriates. By 2015, it estimates six million more jobs will need be created. Again, more than two-thirds of these will be filled by expatriates. Meanwhile, unemployment continues to rise among UAE nationals.

As The National reported yesterday, experts warned during a Nato conference in Dubai last week that the GCC nations need to create many millions more jobs by 2020 to quell rising unemployment.

This is a serious problem. Regional oil reserves are decreasing, but much of the GCC has done little to wean itself off its dependence on the riches these natural resources bring. A huge gap still exists between the private and the public sectors in several GCC countries. The latter continues to attract young people because of the wide range of benefits it offers, from higher wages to longer holidays and more job security.

There is a need to move towards “high value-added services and manufacturing”, as Dr Hatem Al Shanfari, a professor in economics and finance and a member of the board of governors at the Central Bank of Oman, said.

Further focus on manufacturing would help to diversify the GCC economies and create jobs. The UAE has invested heavily in the manufacturing and industrial sectors, including glass and aluminium production, aviation, building materials and pharmaceuticals. Manufacturing made a contribution of about 14 per cent of non-oil GDP between 2001 and 2012, according to a study by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

But any move towards manufacturing also requires a shift in attitudes – not only from government or the corporate sector, but within society itself – if rising unemployment is to be successfully tackled. There must be greater recognition that there are rewarding careers to be had away from traditional areas of employment.

In other words, career satisfaction can be found away from the corner office and somewhere closer to the factory gates. Manufacturing may sound unglamorous, but it is in this sector where innovators the world over have often provided real engines for economic growth.