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The Employment Outlook for the GCC in 2017

Saudi Arabian Job Blogs

Those familiar with the GCC may already know of pointed policy changes emphasizing employment of nationals in the private sector and a marked decrease in emphasis on public sector jobs.
As a simple illustration of this, consider this statement from a report issued by the International Monetary Fund in late 2016: "Despite the progress so far, further measures to improve the business environment and to diversify and expand the role of the private sector are needed. All countries have formulated strategic development plans. These plans should be developed into actionable measures, sequenced and implemented… Labor market policies deserve special attention, with the large youth population facing the biggest challenge. A related challenge that is holding back talent utilization pertains to the low female labor force participation rate. Education and training programs are particularly important."
In essence, this statement explains why the labor market policies of the GCC are widely seen as restrictive, and just why inadequately trained workers pose a major barrier. It also hints at just why the private sector has been unable to grow its workforce in the GCC, even with hiring freezes in the public sector in locations like Oman and decreases in foreign work visas in places like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Though gender gaps in education once created problems in the job market, GCC countries have made great strides in training both men and women alike.
Fortunately, most GCC countries have established favorable training programs, job finding resources, subsidized wages and other programs meant to grow the labor market for nationals.
New Skills and Salary Increases
Naturally, the shift away from the hydrocarbon industries means that an entirely new set of skills will be essential to nationals seeking private sector employment. This is why 2016 saw policy shifts create some challenging conditions, yet Arabian Business News has this to say: "Lower oil prices are likely to continue moderating the GCC’s economic growth this year, but a refreshed focus on non-oil sectors along with sustained programs of state investment should underpin GDP expansion into 2017."
What this means is that salaries will hold steady and even increase in many areas thanks to recognition of the need for non-oil labor markets and the skills essential to a diversified economy. For example, many GCC based firms indicated they would be increasing salaries in the coming year and that some non-oil segments had the highest salary increases throughout the region. For example, those working in the food and beverage industry, media or the pharmaceutical industries enjoyed the highest increases. Those working in construction, oil and gas or telecom saw lower increases, but did see increases in general. The good news is that salaries are expected to begin rebounding in the coming year thanks policy changes relating to everything from taxation to inflation. The most in-demand jobs include cyber security, online experts, marketing content specialists and anyone who speaks both Arabic and English.
For those seeking employment throughout the GCC, it is important to note that the entire region is seeking to close a skills gap created by high public sector employment for many decades. As a report on GCC education noted, the entire region has "recognized the importance of education and skills, and are investing heavily in schools, colleges and universities." Salaries for entry level private sector employment is climbing and attracting many young nationals, and decreases in public sector employment and/or earnings are going to continue.

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