Localization of the workforce in the context of the jobs market is a global issue topping most political debates. No doubt, this has its merits and especially in context to certain countries with demographic imbalance. Politically be it the USA, Europe or UK, it is a sensitive issue with tempers running high and politicians jostling to prove their point. The job opportunities for its naturalized citizens requires due attention.
However, concerning localization of the workforce in GCC, this is a matter of necessity for many reasons. It is a top national priority to sustain a demographic balance and provide fair opportunities for its naturalized citizens considering the recent history of independence and emerging social-economic structure. I would further add that it has a national interest. I believe this is also a must step for Governments to maintain a self-reliant workforce that is not disturbed by any regional or global exigency, as has been the case during the COVID 19 crisis. For many arguments raised in favour of the localization of workforce debate, the pandemic led learnings have reinforced the resilience aspect of the naturalized workforce. It is now that the purpose of localization of the workforce is a significant enabler during a national disaster or exigencies. Therefore, higher dependence on immigrant or expatriate workforce needs to capitulate into a risk strategy to minimize its impact in any future national emergency. I believe that this is critical, and no eyebrows should be raised for being accorded as a national priority.
Most GCC Governments and their leaders drive their campaigns and push for a higher representation of locals in the jobs market. The moot point is this must not be about a targeted number of local jobs in the overall market, but it should focus on their retention, progression and development that matters for its success. It has to be their representation in all facets and sectors of the job category. It needs specific essential prerequisites to attract need-based skills with governments playing an important role. However, creating jobs for locals must not only be a government responsibility but be driven through a close collaboration between the government and the private sector. A genuine public-private partnership approach is necessary to address its success. In the interest of the long-term development of the national workforce, well-coordinated actions are required at different levels with each stakeholder, i.e., Government, Universities & colleges, Private sector, with each taking up their requisite role in favour of fierce resolve. If all stakeholders collaborate, many of the deterrents can easily be removed.
People should not expect Governments to open their flood gates to bring all graduating national Interns seeking jobs. It requires an economic ecosystem where due consideration is given to the national workforce development program considering its citizens’ demographic and socio-economic interests. Herein Governments are expected to play a torchbearer to build a perfect environment where all stakeholders work hand in hand with close cooperation to serve the primary purpose. Whilst Governments have to ensure adequate funding and policies to ensure robust localization of workforce across all sectors; they must not deter to guarantee academic excellence, vocational education to promote upskilling, and building private-public partnerships. Moreover, the universities and colleges must continuously align their teaching with future workplace needs, including Curriculum upgrades.
In the private sector, these need to go leaps and bounds to make this a success. Corporates transcend beyond traditional mindsets to shirk inhibitions and perceptions. Companies should provide adequate opportunities with fair and robust on-boarding, ensuring future retention and development. Meeting localization of workforce goals for the private sector, especially in the GCC, should not be about its mandatory compliances or, for that matter, to the benefit of its ensuing subsidies but more to undertake this as their necessity for their organizational sustainability. Indeed, with the workplace transformation happening and considering its trigger points due to COVID 19, I must say the case of localization of workforce jobs got a boost. In context to the failures of the private sector in attracting locals, there have been many factors that need a rethink. Salary differential being a significant factor can be addressed through a focused intern program. Traditional barriers need a relook of cultural disconnect, salary disadvantage and attrition.
To some extent, this holds ground, but with the changing dynamics, this has been changing. From my perspective, it is the cultural disconnect due to companies’ failure to build a culture that can integrate them rather than seeing them as aliens. Companies need to bring them into mainstream jobs, not specific roles. They need to ensure their progression to retain and make their pay scales at par with the government.
To conclude about its much-needed boost, National’s integration in the workforce needs public-private partnerships. Initiatives like Tawteen, Dawamee introduced by the UAE Government have helped to promote Emiratization across the board. They ensure private sector-led incubation projects and Governments pushing for qualitative education infrastructure, vocational and Upskilling programs and academic renaissance where college curriculums are designed in tandem with job opportunities.