Low-skilled expat workers in Middle East worst hit as hiring drops 50% over coronavirus

Low-skilled expat workers in Middle East worst hit as hiring drops 50% over coronavirus
Expatriate workers returning from Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon arrive at a Kuwaiti health ministry containment and screening zone for COVID-19 coronavirus disease in Kuwait City on March 15, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 July 2020

Low-skilled expat workers in Middle East worst hit as hiring drops 50% over coronavirus

Low-skilled expat workers in Middle East worst hit as hiring drops 50% over coronavirus
  • In June, job opportunities in the UAE began to slightly increase
  • One million of five million Egyptians working in Arab countries will be terminated by the end of 2020

DUBAI: The labor market in the Middle East has been severely impacted by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, leaving millions of expat workers with no choice but to pack their bags and leave.

Hiring activity has dropped by 50 percent from 2019, a Gulf Talent analyst told Arab News.

In Kuwait, about 1.5 million expat workers are expected to leave the country by the end of 2020 due to the economic downturn after the state forced companies to cut their workforce.

The expats, who “are either illiterate or can merely read and write,” were not the country’s priority, Kuwait’s Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said.

“While some officials in Kuwait have echoed these sentiments, political gridlock in the country’s parliament has thus far prevented decisive movement on the labor front. However, political momentum for labor market reforms that reduce the number of expatriates in Kuwait seems to be gaining speed,” Dr. Robert Mogielnicki, resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told Arab News.

In Saudi Arabia, 1.2 million expat workers are also expected to leave the Kingdom this year, according to the Jadwa Investment Company’s latest figures.

In Egypt, it is estimated that one million of five million Egyptians working in Arab countries - especially in the GCC - will be terminated by the end of 2020, local daily Egypt Today reported citing the head of Expats Employment Unit at the Chamber of Commerce Hamdi Imam.

He added that Saudi Arabia - which has three million Egyptians working in it - has suspended multiple mega projects. And in Kuwait, he added, many Egyptians do not have contracts as they are irregular workers and carry expired residency permits, causing them to leave the country.

Low-skilled workers in the Gulf region will struggle the most when it comes to securing their jobs. They depend on actions taken by governments to address the socioeconomic concerns of citizens, Mogielnicki said. The higher-skilled employees have deeper socioeconomic networks and more labor market flexibility, he added.

Wages have also dropped significantly, causing applicants to expect much lower salaries than prior to the outbreak. In February 2020, jobseekers anticipated their next job would offer them an average wage of 14 percent more than their previous job but in today’s market, the average salary payment expected is just 2 percent higher, Gulf Talent analyst said.

In June, job opportunities in the UAE began to slightly increase, yet they still remain lower than the levels seen before the closure of schools in March, a report by Gulf Talent said.

Expats in Gulf Cooperation Council countries are struggling to secure their jobs, as Gulf states are calling for an increase in workforce nationalization in government entities as well as market forces impacting private sector employers, Mogielnicki said.

“Although countries around the world may be looking inward these days, it is impossible to ignore the forces of globalization. Both globalization and nationalism will remain pertinent forces shaping the contours of Gulf labor markets for the foreseeable future,” he added.

Foreign employees working in Oman’s health sector institutions have also been at risk since February due to the government’s proposal to hire Omanis in technical positions as part of the Sultanate’s nationalization plan, the local Times of Oman reported.

But in the UAE, medical professionals witnessed an increase in demand compared to the period prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, as 18 percent more interview invitations were received by applicants in April than in February.

When asked about the outlook for the labor market by the end of 2020, the Gulf Talent analyst said the presence of both the pandemic and lower oil prices forecast a recession in the majority of countries in the region, and more job losses would continue to take place.

“At the same time, some hiring activity should pick up as companies restructure, look for new skill sets or lower-cost employees, and to replace people who leave,” the analyst added.

Mogielnicki said he expected the aviation sector to remain affected by the pandemic well into 2021, adding that it was one of the largest employers in the region. “Industries that rely primarily on the transnational flow of people and, to a lesser extent, goods, will continue to suffer for some time. Industries involved in the provision of digital services and other technology-based platforms and applications will fare better,” he added.

Gulf Talent also said it expected the aviation sector to continue to be affected, with the hospitality and commercial real estate sectors added to the list. The analyst said it may take longer for the aviation sector to get back to previous levels, as business travel and work patterns may have changed permanently by the current shift to remote working.

“The Gulf region has a large service sector, and not all of these jobs can be done remotely. EdTech and HealthTech platforms have enabled many educational and healthcare services to function virtually. Other service-related industries that rely on in-person interactions may struggle to manage lower levels of customer demand over the coming months,” Mogielnicki said.


Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries

Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries
Updated 32 min 18 sec ago

Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries

Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, forms two new ministries
  • In a presidential decree Ruhsar Pekcan was replaced as trade minister by Mus, who has been a lawmaker for Erdogan’s AK Party since 2011

ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a prominent member of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, Mehmet Mus, as trade minister on Wednesday and split the Family, Labour and Social Policies Ministry into two ministries.
In a presidential decree Ruhsar Pekcan was replaced as trade minister by Mus, who has been a lawmaker for Erdogan’s AK Party since 2011 and served as the party’s deputy chairman in charge of the economy.
The decree, published in the Official Gazette, gave no reason for the change, but it comes after opposition politicians accused Pekcan’s ministry of buying supplies from her family-owned company and called on her to resign.
The Trade Ministry confirmed that the purchase of sanitisers had been made, but said in a statement on Tuesday the choice was based on price alone and not due to “the name of the company making the sale.”
It said that the sale, worth some 500,000 lira ($62,000), had been carried out in line with relevant regulations.
Erdogan’s overnight changes come amid speculation over a wider cabinet reshuffle, after he changed the country’s top economic management in November, including the central bank governor.
The president established two new ministries by splitting the Family, Labour and Social Policies Ministry into two separate ministries, according to the decree.
He appointed Derya Yanik as Family and Social Policies Minister and Vedat Bilgin as the Labour and Social Security Minister, replacing Zehra Zumrut Selcuk.


Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills.

Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills.
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills.

Saudi Arabia to raise $800m from privatization of two flour mills.
  • The National Center for Privatization & PPP (NCP) said it completed the sale of the two mills (MC2 and MC4) to private sector investors

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is set to generate about SR3 billion ($800 million) in proceeds from the privatization of two flour mills.
The National Center for Privatization & PPP (NCP) said it completed the sale of the two mills (MC2 and MC4) to private sector investors.
A consortium that includes Abdulaziz Alajlan & Sons Company for Commercial and Real Estate Investment, Al Rajhi International for Investment, National Agricultural Development and OLAM International acquires the second milling company (MC2) for about SR2.14 billion, according to a stock exchange filing on Wednesday.
Meanwhile a consortium that includes Abdullah Al-Othaim Markets Company, Allana International Company and United Feed Manufacturing Company secured the fourth milling company for SR859 million.
Saudi Arabia is accelerating plans to privatize key infrastructure in an effort to modernize the economy, speed major infrastructure works and develop its financial services sector.


AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?

AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?
Updated 21 April 2021

AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?

AirTag or purple iPhone? Where and when can I buy Apple’s latest launches?
  • Good news for Apple fans in the Gulf – all the new products will be available in the region as early as the end of April

DUBAI: Apple just held its first keynote event of the year – announcing new products such as a button-like accessory to help people keep track of their belongings, as well as updates for existing models including a purple iPhone 12.
Good news for Apple fans in the Gulf – all the new products will be available in the region as early as the end of April.
Here are the new products launched during the Apple event in its Cupertino headquarters, and their prices and availability status in the UAE:

AirTag
Price: Starting 129 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 23; product is available on April 30


24-inch iMac (available in seven different colors)
Price: Starting 5,499 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 30; product is available in the second half of May

Apple TV 4K
Price: Starting 729 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 30; product is available in the second half of May

iPad Pro with M1 chip
Price: Starting 3,199 dirhams
Availability: Pre-order starts on April 30; product is available in the second half of May

Other announcements:
The new purple iPhone 12 has no other updates other than the color – it will be the same price as the other iPhone 12 models.
The new iOS 14.5 will be launched next week. It comes with the biggest privacy changes Apple will introduce so far, according to a statement.


More jobs advertised for Saudis by Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu

More jobs advertised for Saudis by Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu
Updated 21 April 2021

More jobs advertised for Saudis by Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu

More jobs advertised for Saudis by Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu
  • The Kingdom has stepped up efforts to secure more jobs for its citizens in line with similar localization efforts underway elsewhere in the region

RIYADH: The Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY) has advertised 96 jobs for Saudis on its website, in Riyadh, Jazan, Jubail and Yanbu.
They cover administrative, engineering and health roles.
Among the advertised positions are a financial planning specialist, director of transportation and equipment department, director of buildings department, and director of public facilities department.
The Kingdom has stepped up efforts to secure more jobs for its citizens in line with similar localization efforts underway elsewhere in the region.
The Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY) was established by royal order in 1975 to kickstart the Kingdom’s petrochemicals industry.


WH Smith to open at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah

WH Smith to open at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah
Updated 21 April 2021

WH Smith to open at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah

WH Smith to open at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah
  • Airport retail may rebound on travel resumption
  • Pandemic culls names across retail sector

DUBAI: British retailer WH Smith is coming to King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.
Tihama Advertising, Public Relations and Marketing Company has agreed a deal with the General Authority of Civil Aviation to lease two units at the airport, it said in a Saudi stock exchange filing.
Tihama Education, a unit of the Tadawul-listed company, will operate two outlets under the WH Smith brand franchise, covering arrivals and departures.
Tihama has an existing partnership with WH Smith at Riyadh Airport and in the UAE.
WH smith did not respond to a request for comment.
Founded in 1792, WH Smith is one of the oldest names on the British high street and has also become one of the world’s leading travel retailers operating over 1,100 stores in 31 countries.
Retailers have suffered from the impact of more than a year of intermittent lockdowns worldwide but the transport-focused end of the retail business may stand to benefit from a resumption of international air travel.
Analysts at RBC upgraded WH Smith to ‘outperform’ from ‘sector perform’ last week and lifted their price target on the stock to 2,200p from 2,100p.