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The Middle East and North Africa region has witnessed a massive growth in the number of jobseekers since 2011, but the number of jobs available has been declining, according to the chief executive of a regional jobs website, who described the trend as dangerous.
“From the moment we started in the Middle East, we were seeing… 400 applicants per job. But since the Arab Spring, we are generally seeing over 1,000 applicants per advertised job,” Rabea Ataya, the founder and CEO of Bayt.com said at the second annual UAE Security Forum held in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Close to six million new professionals have registered on Bayt.com’s database in the past 12 months, Ataya said, which is equivalent to the entire labour force of the UAE.
“Looking at the leading job sites in Switzerland, when an employer advertises a job, it generally gets one-to-two applicants per job and that is because there is essentially full employment in Switzerland and employers basically have to fight for talent,” Ataya added.
In Europe, Ataya said that there are around 30 to 40 applicants per job, he said, which is a similar level to North America. Latin America witnesses around 100 applicants per job, while in the Indian subcontinent there are between 100 to 200 applicants per job.
The figures in MENA, however, represent a very serious problem, and having lot of people desperate for jobs does not bode well for the region, Ataya noted.
“In a region where government has come to the realisation that it is no longer willing to support all this growth in employment that is necessary, we have to turn to entrepreneurial businesses to drive job growth,” he said.
A survey carried out in May this year showed that Arab youth have less faith that their government will be able to solve the region’s rising unemployment rates and that they are increasingly pessimistic about the outlook for their countries.
Ataya said that the potential for technology to transform the region is absolutely massive, but so are the stumbling blocks, with the primary impediment now being government regulation.
Within the world of technology, he said, there are fewer capital requirements and “you can literally sit in your backyard with your computer and actually come up with the next great business”.
The desire for entrepreneurship is alive and well, the ecosystem is growing rapidly against the odds, and the promise of technology and innovation in the region is considerable, according to the Bayt.com CEO.
“We survey young people on our database all the time, and what is amazing is that 80 percent say they prefer to be self-employed, over a government job or over being employed in the private sector,” Ataya noted.
“I think technology is our only transformative opportunity. However, governments need to assist by increasingly lowering the regulatory framework,” Ataya said.
The UAE has been the shining light in that regard, he added.
“In physics, if you create vacuum, matter will rush in and what Dubai and the UAE created was almost a regulatory vacuum with very low obstacles, and the whole world rushed in,” he said.