The future of work in MENA
“Decent work and economic growth” is the eighth sustainable development goal of the United Nations. But this seemingly simple and reasonable ambition is under threat from a range of disruptive elements.
Partly due to Covid-19, as well as rising trade tensions, the world has been ‘deglobalising’, leading some companies to consider reshoring or nearshoring their supply chains. Meanwhile the rising prevalence of fourth industrial revolution technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation means many routine jobs and tasks can be done by a mix of machines and algorithms and, crucially, fewer employees.
Pre-pandemic, the rapid pace of change and concomitant job losses were already proving to be significant challenges to employers and employees. But Covid-19 massively accelerated many companies’ investments in their digital capabilities, which are only likely to exacerbate these trends.
It also caused a complete rethink about how and where people could and should work, with new levels of remote working flexibility forced on businesses and their employees.
Against that backdrop, on 24 May, the Economist Corporate Network in Dubai brought together a roundtable of senior business leaders, representing some of the region’s biggest employers, to explore their views on the future of work.
The following report represents anonymised highlights of that discussion with the aim of sharing the insights that were generously volunteered by the event participants. I would like to thank them all for their participation and thought leadership.