Understanding employment picture is no easy job

A recent Gulf News headline might have had readers scratching their heads: It said 98 percent of professionals in the Middle East are looking for jobs.

Of course, the reality is much simpler. Most of that surprisingly high percentage includes anyone looking for a new job -- even if it's simply checking job opportunities on an internet portal.

The article starts with an anecdotal story about a human resources manager facing a salary reduction as part of downsizing by her employer, but it quickly pivots to brighter findings: for example, a study showing a full 95 percent of respondents saying they were “more prepared and qualified” to find new jobs this year than they were last year.

The article relies on statistics from Bayt.com, a popular Middle Eastern job portal that provides other information as well, such as how long career professionals stay with their employers in the Middle East, how they feel about promotion prospects, and what methods they use to look for new jobs.

“We have witnessed tremendous growth in the number of professionals who use (Bayt.com) to access the career tools and information they need,” Suhail Masri, Bayt.com vice president for Employer Solutions told the Gulf News, citing up to 10,000 jobs open at any one time on the platform in the first months of 2017.

Other statistics from Bayt.com point out common obstacles to professional development, such as lack of growth opportunities, lack of experience, business mismanagement, competition and fear of failure.

The unemployment picture is not the same everywhere in the region, though. A World Bank report shows unemployment remaining “stubbornly high” in countries like Egypt and Yemen. It conspicuously leaves out countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, where the employment situation is a bit rosier.

For more on the Middle East jobs perspective, the Gulf News Journal spoke with Nikhil Salvi, manager of Investment Research and Analytics at the research firm Aranca. Salvi specializes in macroeconomic research across major developed economies, as well as emerging economies, especially India and the Middle East.

“The fall in oil prices has had far-reaching impacts on life in the Middle East,” Salvi said. “From high budget deficits, fuel price increases, and a freeze on government expenditures, now the impact has also seeped down to the employment level.”

However, Salvi also cited the optimism and enthusiasm that Bayt.com found in the workforce as a whole. He pointed to some aspects of life in Middle East countries that still bring career professionals from abroad.

“Due to no or low taxes, the Middle East is still an attractive proposition for job seekers from many countries, who pay high taxes in their home country,” Salvi said. “While oil prices fall and budget cuts continue to dampen overall economic sentiment and trigger halts in corporate expansion plans, employment seekers have become more active to seek a more monetarily rewarding opportunity.”