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Monday, February 12, 2024

Future of Work Forum explores prospects for developing vision to enhance preparedness and flexibility in national labour markets, address rapid global transformations

Organised by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) today (Monday, 12 February) on the side lines of the World Government Summit 2024, the Future of Work Forum explored prospects for developing a vision to ensure continuity in labour markets in light of rapid global developments, and discussed tactics to adapt to transformations and ensure preparedness and agility.

Moreover, the Forum examined strategies to support bilateral and regional cooperation, and strengthen constructive partnerships aimed at developing and activating policies and making decisions for labour market regulation.

Bringing together high-level government officials, representatives of international organisations, and renowned experts, the event provided a prominent platform for exchanging ideas and learning about best practices, innovative strategies, and solutions related to labour markets.

In his opening address at the Forum, His Excellency Dr. Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said: “The world today is in the midst of widespread and rapid developments on various levels that have had a significant impact on labour markets in nations across the world, which, in turn, has reflected onto their economies, given the central role that labour markets play as an engine of economic transformation. Starting from 2021, global economic expansion has largely been driven by increased labour utilisation, contributing to nearly 48% of global GDP growth in 2023, which amounted to 2.3%.”

H.E. Al Awar went on to discuss the Future of Jobs Report issued by the World Economic Forum last year, which indicated that jobs would undergo radical transformations with employers expecting to cut 83 million jobs and create 69 million new ones. H.E. noted that these facts prompted governments to focus on establishing clear and deliberate strategies for developing their economies, charting a roadmap for the future of labour markets in an effort to efficiently navigate the rapidly evolving global landscape, particularly in light of accelerating technological advancements.

Minister Al Awar called for setting ambitious plans that capitalise on advanced technologies, Fourth-Industrial-Revolution breakthroughs, artificial intelligence, and other game-changing developments to establish a labour market that not only adapts to the new world, but embraces it to offer new and unprecedented opportunities.

H.E. also urged the adoption of innovative solutions to address traditional challenges, including ensuring workers’ wellbeing and productivity, and weathering economic fluctuations, especially since “numerous studies have shown that labour productivity is directly linked to improved standards of living, which, in turn, can boost the overall economy.”

“The UAE has achieved notable success on all of these metrics, guided by the forward-thinking vision of our wise leadership and a strategy that revolves around a set of key pillars, most notably, protecting workers’ rights, and creating a stable, dynamic, and competitive labour market,” H.E. Al Awar explained. “That strategy has enabled the UAE to rank at the top across several global competitiveness indicators, including those issued by the International Institute for Management Development and INSEAD.”

“The Emirates has introduced a wide range of initiatives,” H.E. continued, “from updating our legislative infrastructure to establish an attractive and empowering work environment, to introducing new visa programmes designed to attract talent across diverse sectors and cater to professionals looking for flexible working hours and remote work options. We also launched the Unemployment Insurance Scheme and the alternative end-of-service rewards system – known as the ‘Savings Scheme’.”

“As part of its ongoing efforts to analyse future labour-market trends, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has conducted an in-depth and comprehensive study on green jobs in the UAE labour market, in an effort to classify green jobs, develop assessment and evaluation procedures for them, address gaps, and propose action plans to drive a Just Transition and build a more sustainable future,” H.E. Al Awar added.
The study revealed that 6% to 11.6% of private-sector workers perform green jobs, and that one-third of the top 10 green jobs in the United Arab Emirates require higher education and advanced skills. At the company level, operations management skills, engineering and technical skills, and personal skills are the leading competencies required for green jobs.

Also speaking at the Forum, H.E. Jasem Mohamed AlBudaiwi, Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, said: “Organising the Future of Work Forum is a testament to the sincere commitment of our brothers in the UAE to contribute towards international efforts aimed at tracking and forecasting the major transformations reshaping the labour landscape, especially in light of economic crises and geopolitical conflicts. The Forum fosters constructive and joint dialogue on strategies to address challenges with realistic solutions and initiatives based on a conscious analysis of regional and international circumstances.”

“This dedication is evident in the agenda that was set for the Forum, which explores initiatives and procedures to establish dynamic and agile labour markets capable of adapting to change, as well as to develop welfare policies for workers and offer social protection, which is key for ensuring a sustainable labour market,” H.E. added.

“The Gulf Cooperation Council countries have prioritised social security since the very establishment of the modern GCC states, developing legislation to govern retirement, insurance, and social security, guided by the firm conviction among leaders of all GCC countries that social security is a cornerstone of stable and secure societies and an engine of sustainability,” H.E. AlBudaiwi stressed. “Moreover, it is one of the Sustainable Development Goals that our countries have committed to, which set the stage for the decisions issued by the Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2004 to extend insurance coverage to Gulf citizens working in GCC countries.”
“By the end of 2021, more than 33,000 Gulf citizens were benefitting from the decision, marking an average annual growth rate for the 2007-2021 period of 11.6% in the private sector and 10% in the public sector,” H.E. continued. “This, in turn, facilitated the recruitment of talent from Gulf countries in the labour markets of other GCC members. The number of Gulf nationals working outside their countries rose to 35,000 workers in the private sector by the end of 2020 to 2021.”

“In an effort to provide comprehensive protection in labour markets and ensure efficiency among all worker categories, social security systems have covered various aspects, from work injury insurance to end-of-service benefits,” the GCC Secretary General explained. “This comes at a time when, as per the International Labour Organisation, inequality, gaps in inclusiveness, and significant disparities in social security systems and coverage between regions and countries have become all the more evident. There are now more than 4 billion people without any form of protection, while 47% of the world’s population enjoys only partial protection.”

“Gulf Cooperation Council countries have promptly addressed gaps in their social security systems, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, when they launched comprehensive reviews of their social security systems, focusing particularly on branches related to migrant workers,” H.E. AlBudaiwi noted. “The UAE, the Sultanate of Oman, and the Kingdom of Bahrain have begun regulating end-of-service benefits for migrant workers, while all GCC countries continue to operate within a humanitarian and social framework to make sure that their laws align with national and international requirements and to protect workers’ rights.”

Panel discussions

The Future of Work Forum featured a special session that showcased innovative initiatives from the GCC region for optional alternative systems for end-of-service benefits, bringing together Asma AlMadani, Acting Director of the Policy and Studies Department at the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation; Hashim AlHashimi, Director General of Customer Services at the Social Protection Fund in the Sultanate of Oman; and Mustafa AlShaikh, Director of Labour Inspection and Occupational Safety at the Ministry of Labour in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Speakers at the session underlined the important role these systems play as an essential component in the social protection infrastructure, which enhances stability for workers while boosting employers’ economic impact.

Moreover, the Forum discussed plans for building agile and smart labour markets in a panel discussion with Dr. Achim Schmillen, Practice Leader for the Republic of Indonesia and Timor-Leste at the World Bank Group; Mahuran Sariki, Vice President of Group Research Development Policy in Malaysia; and Jason Gagnon, Senior Economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre. The session addressed opportunities and challenges in future labour markets and their impact on workers in the present. Speakers explored the skills required to meet future labour-market demand, highlighting efforts to design sustainable work models that combine human skills and artificial intelligence and enhance learning and integration between human and technology, in addition to discussing the role of governments in adapting recruitment and training systems to technological transformations.

Meanwhile, Lee Sangheon, Director of Employment Policy, Job Creation, and Livelihoods, at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), spoke in a special session at the Forum about the importance of prioritising workers’ wellbeing in policymaking as a means to boost labour market competitiveness, underlining workers’ welfare as the new pathway to productivity, and emphasising governments’ role in developing policies to ensure work-life balance, which have a clear impact on labour market competitiveness.

The agenda also included a special session on the intersection of labour policy and the sharing economy, featuring Arun Sundararajan, Professor at New York University (NYU) and Author of ‘The Sharing Economy’; Simonida Subotic, Vice President of Talabat in the UAE; and Dilip Ratha, Lead Economist at the World Bank and Chair of KNOMAD Thematic Group on Remittances. The panellists emphasised the growing importance of the sharing economy in enhancing labour-market flexibility and the role of policies in achieving balance between growth and protecting workers’ rights in the sharing economy.

The Forum also included a session where experts outlined a range of data-based approaches for effective labour-market governance, with speakers including Rafael de Medina, Director and Chief Statistician at the Department of Statistics of the International Labour Organisation (ILO); Jean D’cunha, Senior Global Advisor of International Migration at UN Women; and Andreas Schaal, Director of Global Relations at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The panel stressed the role of data in seizing opportunities, enhancing labour market preparedness for global developments, and forecasting future job and skill requirements. The speakers also underlined governments’ role in analysing big data using modern technologies to boost labour market preparedness and competitiveness.

Another session on the agenda featured Aparna Bawa, Chief Operating Officer at ZOOM, who spoke about the impact of innovation on labour markets, focusing on use of advanced technologies like remote work in business, and exploring policies and strategies for recruiting talent from around the world. The speaker also highlighted innovative methods to promote work-life balance and enhance workers’ wellbeing and quality of life, before moving on to explore potential opportunities in emerging and future work environment trends.

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