Dubai’s Digitalizing Workforce
LinkedIn published a report on “The Great Reshuffle”, which covered how the UAE is embracing a new world of work.
The report, in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy, analyzed the 5 million-strong member base in the country to understand the forces that have been shaping the country’s labor over the last 5 years. We sat down with Mr. Rajai El Khadem, Head of Public Sector and Academia at LinkedIn MENA to understand the analysis further. He explained, “the economy is resilient and is increasingly rewarding the talents and skillsets geared towards knowledge and innovation.” What the report further identifies is the increasing role of a digital workforce, with Digital Content Management roles, in particular, increasing significantly.
Looking at trends, hiring rates were 36% higher in December 2021 in comparison to December 2019 (prior to covid-19 lockdowns which ensued in March 2020. 2021 trends showed that each month’s hiring activity was higher than its corresponding month in 2019, with August 2021 recording a 46% higher hiring rate in comparison to August 2019. The rebound has been encouraging, especially considering that the December 2021 hiring in the UAE was higher than that experienced in other developed countries.
The UAE has also shown the ability to attract talent from across the globe: the data shows that, relative to its population, the inflow of talent to the UAE is the highest in the world. This has coincided with women making up a greater share of the UAE workforce, climbing from 23% in 2011 to 29% a decade later – one of the top five most-improved countries in the world, according to World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021.
The pandemic has resulted in the rise of people working from home (WFH). At first, this was a mandated requirement in much of the world; as people got used to this set-up, it has changed public perception as well as desires around the requirement to work from an office. 40% of employees surveyed are looking for a flexible work schedule and the ability to work from home on a part-time basis. A significant 20% of those surveyed are looking for new jobs that offer a remote working option and almost 15% quit as a result of being asked to return to the office full time.
In the UAE, the share of remote jobs has tripled from April 2020 to December 2021
Healthcare, Software & IT industries have thrived during covid-19 and saw sustained hiring after the immediate onset of the pandemic. It seems the software & IT services sectors also acted as a talent absorbent for professionals with transferable skills, who shifted from struggling industries to sectors which were booming. “Digital content management” and “Self-employment” were two job domains that witnessed a three-fold growth in the number of roles in 2021, which indicates the market’s continued desire for and ability to absorb talent.
The UAE is the regional leader in all Digital Skills categories of Disruptive Digital Skills, Digital Software & Hardware Skills, and Applied Digital Skills. Globally the UAE ranks in the upper quartile in Artificial Intelligence, Mobile Application Development and Computer Networking Skills. Consider the inflow to outflow ratios, digital disruptive skills are the highest, led by genetic engineering (1.63), development tools (1.32) and AI (1.29).
Considering gender in the workforce, the UAE landscape is dominated by males, largely due to more men migrating to the UAE than women in search of work. Some economists we spoke to also referred ot the fact that there are many male dominated industries that are large-scale employers in the country, including oil & gas, construction and real estate development, engineering and tech as well. However, female workforce participation is growing; in the last decade, female representation has increased from 23% (2011) to 28.5% (2021). It is notable though, that within the group of workforce members that have “disruptive digital skills” – which is the highest growing skill set category in the region – women representation is below the UAE’s average workforce gender distribution. This points to the fact that in the future, the UAE’s tech industry will likely remain a maledominated workforce unless more conscious action is taken by both the public and private sectors to support the participation of women in the tech industry and the wider digital economy as a whole.
Among countries globally, the UAE has witnessed a significant increase in hiring in 2021, as compared to 2019 levels. Among the developed world, hiring rates increased the highest in December 2021, signifying that opportunities are present in the market and more so for those with digital skill sets.
Digital content freelancers have tripled in numbers from 2019 levels, and this is further supported by the UAE ranking in the top 5 for digital skills as per the 2022 INSEAD Global Talent Competitiveness Index. The UAE has been a pioneer in 5G, which is expected to accelerate the implementation of Internet of Things solutions. These progressive moves by the UAE will likely contribute to the UAE continuing to be ranked #1 in the world for attracting talent.