Saudi women make up 16.5% of labor force
Saudi women make up 16.5% of labor force
Recent policy initiatives in the GCC have once again highlighted the fact that a significant proportion of the abundant and rapidly growing human capital of the regional economies remains underutilized. The pre-2008 boom failed to translate faster economic growth into a greater relative employment of nationals. For instance, the IMF recently estimated that, although the GCC countries created a total of 7 million new employment opportunities over the past decade, fewer than 2 million of them went to nationals. This was largely due to rapid growth in the traditionally expatriate dominated construction and service sectors.
The GCC countries are all to varying degrees characterized by idiosyncrasies that set their labor markets apart from much of the rest of the world. In particular, overall employment levels are internationally low. The UAE's total employment is 53 percent while the corresponding figure in Saudi Arabia has tended to be just below 50 percent. Qatar, by contrast, boasts a much high rate of 75 percent, partly reflecting the numerical dominance of expatriate residing in the country on work visas. This state of affairs is partly the result of low labor force participation by women. Due to cultural reasons and the persistent norm of large families, female labor force participation by women tends to be significantly lower than that of men. According to official data, Saudi women make up 16.5 percent of the total national labor force. Similarly, while 62.5 percent of the UAE's male citizens were economically active in 2009, the corresponding figure for women was only 27.5 percent. These figures stand in an increasingly stark contrast to the dominance of women at institutions of tertiary education where they increasingly outnumber men.
There are dramatic differences in the sector-level labor market participation by nationals who tend to have a very strong bias in favor of public sector employment. In Saudi Arabia, 92 percent of public sector employment in 2011 was made up of nationals who occupied a total of 919,108 positions. By contrast, their share of the private sector labor force in 2010 was only 10.4 percent with nationals holding a total of 724,655 positions. In the UAE, Emirati nationals occupy only 43,000 of the 2.2 million private sector jobs in the country whereas the public sector employs 495,000 Emiratis. The preference for public sector employment is in part due to more attractive compensation and working hours but in practice overstuffing has in many cases adversely affected job quality and human capital development.
On the other hand, the robust economic expansion in the oil-fueled 1970s resulted in rapidly growing demand for new skills and workers, which the national labor markets struggled to respond to. The consequence was a growing reliance on imported labor. This, in combination with the simultaneous dominance of nationals in the public sector, in turn engendered perceptions, attitudes, and organizational solution that have made this skewed labor market development extremely resistant to change. By and large, the more labor-intensive a private sector activity, the greater its dependence on expatriate labor tends to be. These are typically sectors where the average compensation and productivity levels alike are internationally low. In essence, the large-scale imports of low-cost manual labor have created a low-cost, low-efficiency equilibrium. Although boosting efficiency would be good for growth, doing so would potentially undermine the model and involve short-term disruptions, which are frequently taken as an argument against policy changes. For instance, following the launch of the Nitaqat program, the Ministry of Labor found that 50 percent of all companies in the Kingdom were in the red or yellow categories with an extremely heavy reliance of expatriates.
Given the current structure of the labor market, it is extremely unlikely that economic growth alone can generate sufficient employment opportunities for nationals to absorb the currently unemployed and the projected new jobseekers. Moreover, international precedents suggest that entrenched patterns in labor markets cannot be overcome without significant regulatory intervention. The key challenge for regional policy-makers is to reshape the regional labor markets in ways that are economically as undisruptive as possible.
The best-known of the recent new policy initiatives is Saudi Arabia's Nitaqat program, which creates rewards for companies with a strong history of employing nationals and imposes penalties on ones lagging behind. At the same time, efforts are under way to enhance the operations of the labor market. In particular, the challenge of unemployment is being tackled in part by compiling better information about jobseekers and vacancies while communicating both more widely. Additional interventions are being considered to better match market demand and supply.
One of the most important new initiatives in this regard is the unemployment support program Hafiz, which was introduced in Saudi Arabia last year. A major Hafiz goal is to turn the unemployed into active jobseekers. Job placement centers (Taqat) have been set up to register and counsel candidates so as to better equip them to meet the needs of the market. The Internet-based Virtual Labor Market provides automated search engines as well as online training. Beyond this, efforts are under way to develop better monitoring mechanisms for the labor market so as to better understand the prevailing needs and dynamics and to respond to them in a timely manner. At the same time, education remains a key priority area for government spending across the region.
But a successful sustainable change in the regional employment pattern will likely require much more than policy redesign. In the words of Kotilaine, “At a time when educational attainment levels and the quality of education are improving, there needs to be a cultural paradigm shift in the corporate sphere. Regional private companies must be encouraged and incentivized to change their default modus operandi from “import the employer you need” to “develop the talent you require.” Given the limited resources of many companies, not least in the area of human capital management, the government may need to facilitate the process where appropriate and reward companies that properly engage and develop their national employees.” In view of widespread skill shortages in certain areas, the authorities — possibly with private sector participation — can offer more centralized training solution to many companies at the same time.
Tesla secures land in Shanghai for first factory outside US
BEIJING: Electric auto brand Tesla Inc. said it signed an agreement Wednesday to secure land in Shanghai for its first factory outside the United States, pushing ahead with development despite mounting US-Chinese trade tensions.
Tesla, based on Palo Alto, California, announced plans for the Shanghai factory in July after the Chinese government said it would end restrictions on full foreign ownership of electric vehicle makers to speed up industry development.
Those plans have gone ahead despite tariff hikes by Washington and Beijing on billions of dollars of each other’s goods in a dispute over Chinese technology policy. US imports targeted by Beijing’s penalties include electric cars.
China is the biggest global electric vehicle market and Tesla’s second-largest after the United States.
Tesla joins global automakers including General Motors, Volkswagen and Nissan Motors that are pouring billions of dollars into manufacturing electric vehicles in China.
Local production would eliminate risks from tariffs and other import controls. It would help Tesla develop parts suppliers to support after service and make its vehicles more appealing to mainstream Chinese buyers.
Tesla said it signed a “land transfer agreement” on a 210-acre (84-hectare) site in the Lingang district in southeastern Shanghai.
That is “an important milestone for what will be our next advanced, sustainably developed manufacturing site,” Tesla’s vice president of worldwide sales, Robin Ren, said in a statement.
Shanghai is a center of China’s auto industry and home to state-owned Shanghai Automotive Industries, the main local manufacturer for GM and VW.
Tesla said earlier that production in Shanghai would begin two to three years after construction of the factory begins and eventually increase to 500,000 vehicles annually.
Tesla has yet to give a price tag but the Shanghai government said it would be the biggest foreign investment there to date. The company said in its second-quarter investor letter that construction is expected to begin within the next few quarters, with significant investment coming next year. Much of the cost will be funded with “local debt” the letter said.
Tesla’s $5 billion Nevada battery factory was financed with help from a $1.6 billion investment by battery maker Panasonic Corp.
Analysts expect Tesla to report a loss of about $200 million for the three months ending Sept. 30 following the previous quarter’s $742.7 million loss. Its CEO Elon Musk said in a Sept. 30 letter to US securities regulators that the company is “very close to achieving profitability.”
Tesla’s estimated sales in China of under 15,000 vehicles in 2017 gave it a market share of less than 3 percent.
The company faces competition from Chinese brands including BYD Auto and BAIC Group that already sell tens of thousands of hybrid and pure-electric sedans and SUVs annually.
Until now, foreign automakers that wanted to manufacture in China were required to work through state-owned partners. Foreign brands balked at bringing electric vehicle technology into China to avoid having to share it with potential future competitors.
The first of the new electric models being developed by global automakers to hit the market, Nissan’s Sylphy Zero Emission, began rolling off a production line in southern China in August.
Lower-priced electric models from GM, Volkswagen and other global brands are due to hit the market starting this year, well before Tesla is up and running in Shanghai.