ISLAMABAD: The labour market demand for low- and semi-skilled migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries private sector is projected to remain high in the short-term, as there are numerous mega projects coming up including the ‘Expo 2020’ in UAE and World Soccer Cup 2022 in Qatar, ILO says in a report.
There are also infrastructure and service needs for a growing GCC population since many of these labour intensive jobs cannot be mechanised or nationalised, according to a report on labour migration, skills development and the future of work in the GCC countries, published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
In the long-term, there will still be a structural demand for migrant workers in a segmented labour force like domestic work, construction and such jobs which national population is not inclined to carry out.
With the adoption of new technology the number and profile of migrant workers is expected to change
However, the number and profile of migrant workers is expected to change according to the pace at which employers adopt technology and nationals accept skilled and semi-skilled opportunities in the private sector. The adoption and creation of new technology will also generate more skilled, specialised employment opportunities in the fields of medicine, engineering, environment, among others in the long run.
Between 2000 and 2010, the GCC countries have produced close to 7 million jobs, yet this figure was still insufficient to close the GCC nationals’ unemployment rate. Youth and total unemployment rates have remained high, particularly among university graduates. In 2016, youth unemployment was 10 per cent in the UAE; 13.5pc in Kuwait; and 20pc in Saudi Arabia.
The potential consequences of a large unemployed young population in terms of unrest and dampened economic growth are well understood in the region, report says.
Another feature of the GCC labour markets is the low but rising rates of female labour force participation.
In some GCC countries, the rate is just under the global average of 52pc, but the global average of literacy rates is not nearly as high as they are in the GCC countries.
Despite higher educational attainment rates than men, women continue to face multiple social and cultural barriers to entering the workforce as well as the same discrimination in hiring practices that women in the West and other regions face.
ILO estimates that at least 2.1 million additional migrant domestic workers will be required in the GCC countries over the next few decades due to the changing demographic profile and family structure. The demand for care workers, ranging from domestic workers to health care professionals including nurses and midwives, is intricately linked with the healthcare conditions and demographic transitions in the GCC countries.
In addition to child care needs, the GCC countries will increasingly depend on migrants for elderly care. In the UAE, the proportion of the population over sixty in 2010 was 40,000 and is projected to increase by 207,000 in 2025. In Saudi Arabia, at least ten million people are expected to be 65 or older by 2050.
Studies suggest that public expenditure contraction in the care economy, combined with falling state capacity to provide welfare, and has created a greater need for migrant care workers who are employed by households.
Not all GCC countries have decreased their public health expenditure, but recent reforms to health insurance in Abu Dhabi now mandates all locals to pay 20pc — as opposed to 100pc full health insurance coverage — for treatment in private hospitals.
The report says the current GCC countries’ population of 53 million is projected to increase by 25pc to over 66 million by 2030, reflecting both relatively high — although declining — fertility rates.
This demographic transition has produced a young and rapidly growing labour force. Across the GCC countries, the median age was 31.4 in 2015, from a low of 29.0 in Oman to a high of 33.4 in Kuwait and UAE.
Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2018
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