70% GCC youth prefer government job over private sector: Survey

More than two-thirds of young national Arabs in the Gulf states still hope to land jobs with government, despite initiatives to encourage them to seek out careers in the private sector.

This new finding from the eighth annual Asda’a Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey was unveiled by Sunil John, the CEO of Asda’a Burson-Marsteller, at a presentation to the third Global Islamic Economy Summit, being held in Dubai on the 11th and 12th of October.

Across the whole Arab world, half (50 per cent) of young people said they would prefer a government job to private sector work. However, this preference rises to 70 per cent across the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

When asked what would entice them to work in the private sector, more than half of all young Arabs surveyed cited higher wages (51 per cent), followed by better healthcare and other benefits (35 per cent), more paid holidays (29 per cent) and shorter working hours (27 percent).

In the GCC, where governments have traditionally employed the majority of the national workforce, only 15 percent of young people said they would prefer to work in the private sector, while another 14 per cent had no preference and 1 per cent didn’t know.

“Persuading young people to take on roles in the private sector is essential to creating a strong, sustainable economy,” said Sunil John. “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 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.”

Elsewhere in the Arab World, views towards public sector employment differ markedly. In the Levant, young people are almost evenly split between preference for the public and private sectors (28 per cent and 30 per cent receptively), while 37 per cent had no preference and 4 per cent didn’t know. In North Africa, 47 per cent of young nationals would opt for the public sector, 26 per cent for private, 20 per cent had no preference and 8 per cent didn’t know.

In another Survey finding unveiled at his presentation, John revealed that the majority of young Arabs – 58 per cent – want to further their education, be it university, vocational training or post-graduate degree.  In North Africa, 73 per cent intend to further their education, against 61 per cent in the GCC and just 41 per cent in the Levant.

Of those who aren’t seeking further education, 40 per cent of young people in the Levant say they are put off by the high cost of further education; in North Africa 19 per cent are concerned by teaching standards; while 62 per cent of young Gulf Arabs are keen to get on with their careers.

Now in its eighth year, the Asda’a Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey has established itself as a key referral source for businesses and policymakers in the region and across the world.

For this year’s survey, international polling firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) conducted 3,500 face-to-face interviews with exclusively Arab national men and women aged 18-24 in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain; Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Yemen. The interviews were conducted from January 11 to February 22, 2016.