The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is endowed with a young, growing and increasingly well-educated population, which, if skilled for tomorrow’s jobs and offered new and productive employment opportunities, has the potential to significantly enhance the region’s growth. However, with 31% of young people unemployed, new and urgent action is needed to realize this potential. In addition, even when skilled talent is present – particularly educated women – it is not being deployed effectively in the workforce.

Women Entrepreneurs in Africa
Women Entrepreneurs in Africa

The analysis in the new reportFuture of Jobs and Skills in MENA: Preparing the Region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, released today, also finds that there is no room for complacency. Few of MENA’s economies are fully prepared for the impending disruption to jobs and skills brought about by technological change. The crucial question for the region, therefore, is how to capitalize on this short-term demographic and technological window of opportunity and prepare its working-age population as well as today’s schoolchildren for the future of work. The report aims to serve as a practical guide for business, government, civil society and education leaders.

Key findings from the report, which uses new data from LinkedIn, include:

· Young people are almost five times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts in the region. However, in contrast to global patterns, graduates make up nearly one-third of the total pool of unemployed in the region.

· The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia lead the way in the local availability of high-skilled jobs. Common forms of high-skilled employment in the MENA region include commercial bankers, accountants, school teachers and academics, engineers and information technology consultants, according to LinkedIn’s data. Tracking trends in the growth and decline of roles in MENA labour markets reveals a growing demand for health, education, care, personal services as well as creative, travel and tourism professionals.

· As the region already faces a skills gap according to business leaders, the region will need to prepare current and future workforces for the future of jobs, particularly high-skilled roles, to remain competitive. Analysis suggests that 41% of all work activities in Kuwait are susceptible to automation, as are 46% in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, 47% in the UAE, 49% in Egypt, 50% in Morocco and Turkey, and 52% in Qatar. Reskilling and upskilling sections of the workforce that are likely to be affected will also be critical for the region to manage the transformations underway in the labour market.

· Often having higher levels of educational attainment and workplace skills, women in MENA represent significant human capital potential. However, workforce gender gaps remain wide, ranging from just over 40% in Kuwait and Qatar to nearly 80% in Algeria and Jordan. Integrating more female talent will be a key pathway for workforce planning in the region.

“The data show that, to prepare for the future of work, the region must take action to invest in talent, close skills and gender gaps and create high-value-adding jobs to unlock the potential of a young population and to equip economies to tackle the challenges of the 21st century,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Education, Gender and Work System Initiative and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.