GCC lags behind in digital jobs, says Strategy&

Report from LinkedIn and Strategy& says GCC needs to create more digital jobs

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GCC lags behind in digital jobs, says Strategy& Matar: There is a need for more jobs and more citizens with digital skills.
By  Mark Sutton Published  October 2, 2017

Jobs in the GCC are at risk from digital disruption if countries do not do more to create opportunities in digital sectors, according to a new report from Strategy& and LinkedIn.

The report says that the GCC lags behind regions such as Europe in the proportion of jobs that are in the digital economy, and that many GCC nationals are employed in sectors which are at risk from digital disruption.

Currently, digital jobs account for only 1.7% of the total GCC workforce, compared to 5.4% of the total EU's workforce being employed in similar roles. If the GCC could achieve similar levels of digital jobs to Europe, it would create an additional 1.3 million new jobs.

Ali Matar, Head of LinkedIn Talent Solutions, for EMEA Emerging Markets, Middle East & Africa said: "Our analysis mapped digital professionals on the LinkedIn platform to functions in digital-related industries. Only one of the ten skills that GCC digital professionals cited matched the fastest-growing skills globally on the LinkedIn platform. Although there is a regional trend towards more technical skills, these remain scarce for emerging technologies such as big data and analytics".

The report, Empowering the GCC digital workforce: Building adaptable skills in the digital era, was created from a study by Strategy&'s Ideation Center and LinkedIn.

The skills showing the highest growth among GCC digital professionals are focused on technology sales and distribution, whereas globally the most rapidly growing skills relate to product development. The digital skills most highly prized by employers in all sectors such as statistical analysis and data mining, Algorithm design, website architecture are almost absent among GCC digital professionals.

According to the report, there are problems with both supply and demand for digital jobs. The GCC education system does not keep up with technological changes or provide adequate ICT education, with 93% of digital professionals completing university level education abroad.

There is also limited awareness of job opportunities in the digital field which leads GCC nationals to prefer traditional sectors, the report said.

In terms of demand, there are low levels of digitization in the region - for example, only 18% of companies use cloud computing - which restricts employment opportunities for digital professionals locally. The GCC's ICT industry itself is also underdeveloped and focuses on technology consumption rather than production.

To create the digital workforce, GCC countries should focus more on STEM education in schools, and better use of digital tools in the delivery of education. To encourage students into the sector, countries should enhance professional development opportunities, including post-graduate specializations, internships and company training programs in digital sectors. Digital job creation should be supported by stimulating innovation and support for the startup sector.

Melissa Rizk, fellow with the Ideation Center, Strategy& Middle East's think tank, said: "Digital jobs are more adaptable in the face of technological disruption, and can support a more flexible working culture hence allowing for self-employment and remote work - a model that encourages greater participation by women and the inactive youth."

Samer Bohsali, Partner with Strategy& and the leader of the firm's Digital Business and Technology practice and the digitization platform in the Middle East, concluded: "GCC governments need to continuously reskill their workforce to embrace the latest technologies. The digital sector tends to change rapidly because of continuously emerging new technologies that redefine the way business is done, which is less often the case in traditional jobs. Creating a digital workforce of continuous learners is key to drive the success of national transformation plans."

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