Intelligent CIO Middle East Issue 40 - Page 40

FEATURE: ANALYTICS ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Rob Amor, Senior Vice President – Global Channels at Concentra Analytics, discusses how companies in the Gulf states can prepare for and plan upskilling programmes for local workers to meet new regulations. E conomic migrants first arrived in the Gulf in large numbers during the 1970s to fill highly skilled roles opening up in the growing oil and gas industries. Today, there are more than 30 million expats living in the region, with the UAE having the largest community representing more than 80% of the population. EMPLOYERS SAY THAT SKILLS GAPS ARE STILL A MAJOR IMPEDIMENT TO BUSINESS GROWTH. Significantly, migrants make up an even larger proportion of the workforce. In Saudi Arabia, for example, foreign workers occupy nine out of every 10 positions in the private sector, while in the UAE nationals represent just 8% of the workforce. This number is expected to drop further to 6% in 2020. In recent years, governments have begun to take action to curb the ripple effects of supporting an expat community. Saudi Arabia was the first to introduce a quota system for foreign workers back in 2015. More recently, it has introduced a policy that requires companies with a majority of expats in their workforce to pay a fine of SAR2,400 (about US$640) a year for every foreign worker above the number of local workers employed. Such legislation is beginning to weigh heavily on businesses in the region and is set to become more commonplace. Little wonder then that companies are preoccupied with upskilling their local workforce, but this is easier said than done. The socio-economic impact of migrant workers a cause for concern Governments are legitimately concerned about the balance between local and foreign workers for several reasons. The sheer number of expats places a strain on essential services and infrastructure. Kuwait in particular, sees this as damaging. There’s also a correlation between foreign workers and rising unemployment in The upskill imperative: empowering local workers in the Middle East 40 INTELLIGENTCIO