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What you Need to Know About the Skills Gap Crisis in the Middle East

middle east

In a recent report on the job market and skill shortages in the MENA region, and YouGov found that youth unemployment in MENA is highest in the world – double the global average of 13%. What’s most worrying is that 76% of recent graduates from the MENA region feel that their main challenge is finding a job. However, recent news that Education For Employment (EFE), has set up a regional branch office in the UAE to battle the youth employment issue does show signs that the issue is being addressed at a national level.

For the survey itself, 5,345 respondents were interviewed online from 13 countries across the MENA region between the 3rd – 22nd March 2016. Countries included Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the UAE. Today, we’re listing the 15 key findings to get a better understanding as to why the skills shortage exists, as well as what can be done to improve the situation.

Insight #1: The industry that demands the most new employees across all countries is Engineering/Design at 11%. Banking, HR, Hospitality and IT all stood at 6%, with Automotive, Manufacturing, and Consumer Goods slightly lower again at 5%.

Industries currently looking to hire

Insight #2: 53% of companies are looking for Junior Executives, compared to just 30% who are looking for Executives. Surprising, considering that so many graduates are out of work, right? This statistic just proves that there is a massive disconnect between the perceptions held by employers and the perceptions held by job seekers.

positions in demand

Insight #3: The most sought-after roles across the MENA region are for Sales Executives, with the exception of North Africa with just 4% of companies concurring. Sales Managers, Project Managers, and Mechanical Engineers are also in demand at 16%, 15%, and 14% respectively overall.

roles in demand

Insight #4: Over half of the companies surveyed (56%) feel that their company doesn’t have sufficiently skilled employees in order to be able to reach their goals this year.

this year's goals

Insight #5:  When it comes to determining how important particular skills are for certain roles, employers tend to put less value on junior/mid-level positions, in comparison to senior roles. For example, 85% of those surveyed felt that communication skills are the most important skills for senior executives to possess, whereas only 80% felt the same way about junior execs. As a result, expectations of senior recruits are amplified.

most important skills

Insight #6: The industries that job seekers are most interested in are Banking/Finance (23%), Business Consultancy (21%), and Advertising/Design (20%). IT, Telecoms and Public Sector industries didn’t fare as well, all with less than 20% of job seekers interested in openings within these fields.

job seekers industries

Insight #7: The majority of job seekers are looking for either junior or mid-level positions. Overall, just 29% of job seekers are looking for senior positions. The most exaggerated example of this is in Morocco, where a whopping 84% of job seekers are looking for junior/mid-career roles.

positions MENA

Insight: #8: A total of 50% of job seekers surveyed found it ‘difficult’ (28%) or ‘very difficult’ (22%) to find a job in the MENA region with their current skill set.

difficulty finding job

Insight #9: From a job seeker’s perspective, the most important skills that they need to possess in order to be hired include communication, negotiation and leadership skills. These stats fall in line with the general consensus amongst employers that soft skills are harder to find in a candidate in comparison to technical skills.

soft skills technical skills

Insight #10: The ways that job seekers keep their skills current include reading articles (57%), reading books (51%), researching best practices (46%) and taking online courses (44%).

activities by job seekers

Insight #11: When it comes to sourcing candidates, 49% of companies find it difficult or very difficult to find suitable people for junior/mid-level positions. On the other hand, 70% find it difficult or very difficult to source for senior positions.

candidate skils

Insight #12: Some of the reasons as to why companies are having difficulty in finding candidates include weak recruitment process (30%), followed by lack of relevant work experience (23%) and candidates’ lack of interest in developing their skills (23%).

reasons for recruitment issues

Insight #13: When asked why job seekers have difficulty in finding positions that match their skills, the findings showed that job seekers don’t actually know what skills employers are looking for (34%), educational institutions do not teach students skills to help them enter the job market (22%) and the governments don’t offer enough programmes for the unemployed to develop their skills (17%).

employer issues

Insight #14: When asked the question ‘Is there a clear skills gap in the MENA region’, 55% of respondents answered ‘Yes’. 35% were undecided, and just 10% answered ‘No’. The countries that were most likely to believe that there is a clear skills gap were Egypt (69%), Oman (62%) and Algeria (59%). The UAE was torn, with 44% of respondents answering both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, leaving 12% undecided.

skills gap MENA

Insight #15: 42% of respondents who think that there is a clear skills gap feel that the best solution to the problem is for companies to provide training opportunities to their employees (42%). Other solutions included companies and educational institutions working together to predict future skills needs (40%), educational institutions teaching students the skills they need to enter the job market (39%) and governments offering programmes for the unemployed (25%). solutions to skills gap Middle East

Conclusion: From the findings of the survey, it’s quite clear to see that there is a clear disconnect between what employers want from candidates versus the skills that candidates actually possess. So do organisations need to lower their expectations when it comes to hiring at a junior/entry level? Or is the onus on the candidates themselves to make sure that they have the training and skills required by employers? If you’re a recruiter in the Middle East, we want to know what you think! Tweet us, or comment below with your thoughts on these survey results.

**Source: “The Skills Gap in the Middle East” survey, by and YouGov. Download the entire report here.  

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