Exploring the Impact of the Digital Economy on the Arab States

February 21, 2024 hr-hrobserver-ILO-labour

The region’s unemployment rate is expected to remain high at 9.8% in 2024, despite the region’s positive above outlook, a new report published by the International Labour Organisation Regional Office for Arab States has found.

“Today, emerging trends in the world of work, such as the growth of the platform economy, introduce further complexities to the labour market. These developments can exacerbate issues related to job security, fair wages, decent working hours and international labour standards, underscoring the need for comprehensive and innovative strategies that leave no one behind,” said the ILO in their report. 

The report, titled Arab States Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2024: Promoting social justice through a just transition , also projects that GDP in the region is expected to grow by 3.5% in 2024, with faster growth in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries than in non-GCC countries.

“The labour market situation in the Arab States is complex and needs urgent action. We hope this report can help identify solutions to promote not only thriving and fair labour markets, but also peace and stability across our region,” said ILO Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat.

The ILO said that the region’s labour market are affected by segmentation, political instability, conflict, economic crises, a weak private sector and demographic pressures, 

The agency said that the Arab States are facing dual challenge of boosting economic growth and creating more decent jobs for their growing labour force, the report identified a need to intensify attempts to diversify the economy, especially in oil-producing countries exposed to oil price fluctuations.

“Promoting decent work, including in the green economy, plays a central role in advancing social justice, eliminating discrimination and ensuring that no one, irrespective of their age, sex, nationality or religion, is left behind,” said ILO Senior Employment Policy Specialist and Head of the Regional Economic and Social Analysis Unit, Tariq Haq, who led development of the report. 

“Concerted efforts and integrated measures need to consider both the supply and demand sides of the labour market, as well as the intermediation between them, and the report presents a set of policy recommendations to achieve this,” Haq added.

The ILO said that it is important to design and implement pro-employment and inclusive macroeconomic and sectoral policies, enabling factors for manufacturing and higher value-added services growth, improving the skills and education system and promoting lifelong learning.

Nonetheless, promoting the transition from the informal to the formal economy, bridging the gender gap, improving labour market information, addressing inequalities and protecting workers’ rights.

“Women are among the most disadvantaged groups in Arab labour markets… A substantial gender income gap is evident in the Arab States, where the total earnings of women amount to only 12.5 per cent of men’s,” the report said. 

According to the findings of the report, Arab women’s representation in managerial positions remains low. There remains a need to encourage women’s participation in the labour market; moreover, to support the dismantling of the so-called “glass ceiling”.

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