A move to the Middle East is an exciting prospect for the adventurous business professional. The Middle East, with its booming and increasingly diversified economy and rapid population growth, is a popular region for working abroad. But during prosperous times economically for the region, nationalisation policies are intended to provide a platform for nationals to obtain positions easier. However, whether this is actually the case for c-suite executives remains to be seen and understanding the changing dynamics of the region’s workforce and hiring policies will provide an improved perspective. The following provides just that, with insights into why expats are in demand, the effect nationalisation is having for nationals and whether it is indeed creating greater opportunities.
Why expats are in demand?
Expatriates are valued assets, particularly in executive positions, in the region for several reasons. For one, western management techniques and training are still the envy of the world. These are frequently seen to produce optimal performance in difficult and start-up situations. Because of the training and experience expatriates possess in their previous position in already matured markets outside of the Middle East, these individuals often will be given the responsibility to develop and mentor the local national executive talent. Many of the key industries found in the Middle East are not necessarily Middle Eastern in its origin. Rather, the organisation is a subsidiary or regional branch of an American or European business conglomerate. Communication with the global headquarters is also key, as well as understanding the headquarters’ culture and values. The desire for foreign educated executives is also why expatriates are in demand, with certain and niche knowledge required to execute complex tasks based around the standards of which were applied throughout various Western education systems. For example, the CPA qualification is a standard accounting qualification in America but is somewhat universal as well. Unless the finances and operations of the foreign entity are relatively simple, an expatriate accountant will be a big help, particularly in the circumstances of start-up companies. Expatriate workers do tend to cost more. In some instances they cost spectacularly more than local nationals. However, this additional expenditure frequently pays for itself in the long term. These expatriate workers often provide a level of efficiency, talent, and reliability that significantly boosts the organisation’s overall profitability. Using cost-benefit analysis, expats frequently make a stronger workforce.
Nationalisation: A strategy to create more opportunities?
The most significant change in the hiring landscape over the previous years have been the impact of the nationalisation programs various Middle Eastern states are implementing. Nationalisation in this regard is an intense policy focus to cut down on employing expatriates. The purpose is not necessarily to discriminate against foreign workers; their intended aim is to recruit more local nationals into the local economy, thereby curtailing widespread and alarming youth unemployment. Notable countries taking such measures include Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait. The policy of “Saudisation” in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia best exemplifies the circumstances surrounding the attempts at nationalising a country’s workforce. While many Saudis are employed by the government, there are not enough jobs for the growing number of youth in the nation. Meanwhile, the private sector was largely dominated by foreign national labourers from Southeast Asia, North Africa, and executives with western backgrounds. The Saudi government made the decision to reduce unemployment among native Saudis, under the slogan “Let’s Put the Saudi in Saudisation”. Companies which fail to comply with Saudisation regulations have been warned that they will not be awarded future government contracts. In 2014 the Saudi Gazette reported that one of the targets of the kingdom’s Ninth Development Plan (2010-2015) — is “bring down the unemployment rate to 5.5 percent.”
Does it mean more jobs?
Overall, despite the implementation of such programs, their hiring intentions will remain relatively unbiased regarding your race and country of citizenship. While nationalisation has the potential to make it more difficult for expatriates, this policy should affect employees at the lower end of the spectrum rather than the upper echelons of the c-suite office. Opportunities will still be abound for the best qualified and attractive
candidates, no matter what country you come from. Career Intelligence specialises in executive positions across the worlds leading emerging markets, particularly the gulf. If you are a National exec. or foreign executive looking to move to the gulf, upload your CV today for a free CV appraisal and the latest job postings within the region.