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ICDL calls for government participation

The IT literacy group campaigns for support from the private sector to reduce unemployment among GCC nationals.

ICDL GCC Foundation, the governing body of the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) programme in the Gulf States, has called for increased investment in IT literacy programmes across the GCC states, to help enhance the employment prospects of Nationals in the private sector.

Despite the fact that intra-regional economic growth is being witnessed by all Gulf States, unemployment among GCC nationals remains to be a serious problem. The job market situation in the GCC region as a whole is characterised by the fact that the majority of jobs in the private sector are taken by expatriates who make up 30% of the region’s population. According to the Gulf Economic Report, 7.5 million expatriates are currently employed in the GCC.

The low percentage of UAE Nationals employed in the private sector, especially where good working conditions and strong career prospects exist, is an alarming concern for governments. According to the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority’s (Tanmia) HR Report 2005, the proposition of UAE Nationals in the private sector has remained constant at 1995 levels of less than two per cent.

“The role played by governments in job creation has become somewhat limited. There are not enough government jobs created to accommodate the increasing national workforce. Job creation in the private sector is the solution to the unemployment problem facing the region. Obviously GCC nationals are not being absorbed by the private sector because their skills do not match the needs of private sector employers”, says Jamil Ezzo, director general, ICDL GCC Foundation.

While each GCC State is committed to providing jobs to their citizens, the market scenario favours the expatriate labour force due to a variety of factors, including wage expectations and higher qualifications.

As the information age will create more demand for people with IT skills, the focus of all campaigns for nationalisation of jobs should be on IT literacy, according to Ezzo. “In order to achieve effective implementation of a job localization policy within the private sector, a proactive approach in skills development is crucial. The lack of compatible skills with the rapidly changing demands of the private sector could provide a serious setback to the nationalisation of jobs in the region, in view of the strong domination of the job market by expatriates,” he says.

As computer literacy rates are relatively low in the GCC when compared to the developed countries, it is important to integrate computer skills in the education system, as well as provide greater opportunities for acquiring higher IT skills during and after the college and university education.

Technology has affected nearly every type of work. Workers across a broad range of occupations in today’s job market require high-level of generic knowledge and technical skills, as well as the ability to adapt to new technology implementations.

Moreover, both academicians and policy makers need to work hand-in-hand on human resource development and educational planning. For educational planning to be instrumental in the achievement of economic goals, it must be geared to meet the demand for required skills in specific industrialisation programmes.

Several GCC Member States have implemented or are in the process of implementing the ICDL IT literacy programme and made mandatory for government employees, teachers and students.

As the GCC States’ economies are diversifying rapidly beyond the traditional oil resource, the national workforce must be equipped with the right mix of skills to support the dynamics of the job market. “The region has a historic opportunity to take advantage of the current economic boom to invest in a skilled workforce that matches the demand of the private sector. Growing evidence shows direct links between economic growth and investment in human capital”, Ezzo concludes.

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