Government jobs still preferred by majority of Arab youth

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 2 Nov 2016

Survey finds main draws of public sector are higher salaries, better benefits and more public holidays

Young Gulf Arabs are still shunning the private sector when looking for work, according to the 2016 ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey unveiled at the Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai.
Throughout the Arab world, half of all young people claimed to want a government job rather than a private sector role, but the figure climbed to seven out of 10 in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.
“Persuading young people to take on roles in the private sector is essential to creating a strong, sustainable economy,” said Sunil John, CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller. “These findings show that despite ongoing efforts to make the private sector more appealing to young Gulf Arabs, the message isn’t getting through as fast as governments – or the private sector – would like.
“New initiatives and policies, such as Saudi’s Vision 2030, the removal of subsidies on fuel and the introduction of VAT across the Gulf, show that governments are serious about new economic realities,” he added. “However, it seems balancing expectations about public sector work with the realities of private sector employment for those young nationals entering the workforce will require more effort.”
Findings from the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller survey show that young Arabs are drawn to government jobs due to higher salaries, better benefits and more public holidays.
HR experts concur with the research. “There are several reasons stated by the youth which pull them towards the public sector,” said Waleed Al-Azki, HR business partner at Oman Logistics Company. “New research shows young people prefer the public sector over the private sector because of the wages. According to them, economic inflation and increased standards of living make it impossible to survive with the smaller salary offered by the private sector.”
Al-Azki also agrees that Arab youngsters feel they don’t receive sufficient benefits in the private sector, and that they have to work longer hours. But the main reason for favouring the public sector is job security.
“Youths say that working for the government is more secure than the private sector,” said Al-Azki. “They feel it’s the opposite in the private sector, because they're threatened by the possibility of losing their job at any time.”
International HR consultancy Mercer recently researched the most effective ways to keep Emirati employees engaged and found that the key to private sector organisations attracting and retaining nationals was not only to offer competitive pay and good benefits, but also career progression opportunities. An organisation’s reputation was also a major reason why an Emirati national might choose or reject a private sector employer.
Al-Azki believes that in the short term, the government will remain as the main employer of Arab youth in the Gulf. “However, in the coming five years as most of the countries are facing an economic slowdown, things will change and Arab youth will start eyeing the private sector,” he added.