The GCC must urgently upskill for the future, says PwC in its latest report
Source: PwC , Author: Posted by BI-ME staff
Posted: Mon February 11, 2019 12:02 pm

UAE. The World Government Summit -  A new paper from PwC, “The Lost Workforce: Upskilling for the Future” - released in conjunction with Dubai’s World Government Summit - looks into strategies, actions and policies for resolving upskilling issues, calling for governments, businesses and society to work together, to engender sustainable growth, employability and inclusion.

Released at the seventh edition of the World Government Summit held in Dubai from 10-12 February 2019, the PwC paper addresses some of the innovative, ambitious and practical government policy solutions which will significantly and rapidly increase the skills portfolio of untapped talent pools in virtually every country. It offers a path to upskilling workforces: thus creating a more vibrant and exciting future for all.

A “lost” workforce
The world over, there is a growing mismatch between employer vacancies and candidate skills. From Rio to Rome, from San Diego to Saudi Arabia, hundreds of millions of unemployed, overqualified or underskilled workers do not have, or no longer have, the relevant skillsets to fulfil specific roles.

This ‘lost workforce’ represents a major loss in productivity and could set the stage for growing global malcontent, particularly among youths.

Youth bulge concerns
According to the PwC report, more than 108 million (+28%) of the Middle Eastern population is between the ages of 15 and 29 years old. This marks the highest number of young people transitioning into adulthood in the region’s history.

The GCC, specifically, is facing a daunting shift in demographics, known as the ‘youth bulge’. Around 60 percent of its citizens are under the age of 30. It is predicted that the GCC’s youth population will balloon to 65 million by 2030.

Against this backdrop, youth unemployment is already more than twice as high as overall unemployment rates. According the World Economic Forum, youth joblessness stands at 11 per cent in the UAE, 20 per cent in Oman and is highest in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia at 27 percent. That rate is even higher for women.

The region’s high proportion of young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) signals the increasing disconnect between educational systems, business and society. Skills mismatches and bloated public sectors, as well as the social constraints against women entering the workforce, represent major weights on the Gulf’s forward-thinking transformational strategies.

On the region’s drive toward transformation, Laurent Probst Partner at PwC Luxembourg, Government Digital Transformation & Innovation Leader and the report’s author says: “Countries with visionary leaders that support enabling conditions for the adoption of the digital economy, will encourage the design of new, innovative solutions for their educational and vocational training systems.”

Probst notes: “To paint the picture within a Middle Eastern context, this region has a very young, vibrant and digitally-savvy population, coupled with very forward thinking leadership.  You need to only to consider such modern roles as the recently created Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, or a Ministry for Happiness and Tolerance, or the recently announced Centre of Excellence for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to see that what makes this region is a place where innovation and digital initiatives are at the forefront, making it an ideal place for transforming, training and upskilling the workforce of the future.

The region is blessed with having such a young demographic that could influence and support its institutions -- it means that the people of such young economies are far more open to change than well-established economies in the West are. That means that the majority of the workforce already “think digital” and are able to start off from a blank slate and design a future that is attuned to the demands of the digital age.”

“Many companies are desperately looking for candidates to fill their growing job vacancies. Meanwhile hundreds of millions of unemployed, overqualified or under-skilled workers do not, or no longer have, the relevant skillsets required to fulfil specific roles. This lost workforce represents an incredible loss in growth and economic prosperity. From this study, we have concluded that upskilling is an imperative for success in this day and age and that is our call to action for governments the world over.”

** The Lost Workforce was authored by Laurent Probst, Partner, PwC Luxembourg, Government Digital Transformation & Innovation Leader along with fellow colleague Christian Scharff, Partner, PwC Luxembourg People & Organisation HR Technology Leader and produced in conjunction with the World Government Summit.

Click here to download the report.

Photo Caption:  Laurent Probst Partner at PwC Luxembourg, Government Digital Transformation & Innovation Leader and author of the report

About PwC
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Established in the Middle East for 40 years, PwC has 22 offices across 12 countries in the region with around 5,200 people. (

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