Archive for February 2013

In our previous post on Unequal Labor Market Distribution of Youth in the Arab World we looked at an example of applying a behavioral intervention to influence youth career choice in Gulf countries. While consumer behavior and decision sciences literature in the US and Europe has shown that prompting respondents to rank their values prior to making decisions can yield positive results in terms of post-decision satisfaction and lower levels of regret, asking youth in the Gulf countries to rank attribute values that they consider important when making career choices prior to choosing a career path was not as positively influential as Western literature suggests.

Our research findings suggest that behavioral interventions on career choices of youth in the Gulf decrease the likelihood that they will choose career disciplines characterized by labor market gaps or which are outside traditional career disciplines. This finding illustrates that behavioral interventions that seek to influence career choice of youth in the Gulf may be less effective due to students being unaccustomed to considering values when making career decisions, a finding that has also been demonstrated by previous research in the Arab World (IFC, 2011).

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Exactly How Many Jobs Are on Offer at Recruitment Shows in the Arab Region?

Skills Shortages and Gaps May Limit the UAE’s Islamic Finance Hub ambitions

Looking more closely at the assumptions on which behavioral interventions are designed can potentially reveal the extent to which such interventions or ‘nudges’ for improving decision quality are applicable in the Arab region. Thaler and Sunstein (2008) describe behavioral interventions or ‘nudges’ as ‘any aspect of choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives’. Their notion that people are ‘nudge-able’ is primarily based on the assumption that human nature often prompt individuals to follow heuristics in decision making that may lead to biases and errors. Heuristics, or rules of thumbs, are adopted by humans because they cost less time and effort and seem much more convenient given our ‘bounded rationality’ and selective attention. Kahneman and Tversky (1973) explain how heuristics such as anchoring, availability heuristics, framing effects, and higher sensitivities to losses than gains, may lead to judgment errors or biases that distort decision making processes and yield sub-optimal outcomes.

A major weakness in behavior intervention literature is the assumption that heuristics used to make decisions are similar across cultures. Cultural differences are often overlooked in designing behavioral interventions (Levinson and Peng, 2006). While some heuristics may be universal (for instance, our study showed a similar tendency of Arab youth, as is common amongst youth elsewhere, to stick to prevalently chosen and socially acceptable career disciplines given the increased perceived accountability associated with the decision (Dolan et al., 2010), studies show that not of all them are. The belief of one’s ability to influence events, risk tolerance, honoring of sunk costs, probability judgments, and cultural dimensions listed by Hofestede (2001) such as uncertainty avoidance (Keil et al., 2000) can all influence heuristics applied career decision making.

The need for further research into behavioral interventions and measures that would be more effective, familiar, and meaningful to youth in the Arab world is evident in order to promote socially optimal career decisions amongst Arab youth. Such work must be accompanied by the development of a behavioral model to ensure cultural variation is accounted for rather than treated as statistical noise (Levinson and Ping, 2006). At the same time, exploring the applicability of career guidance behavioral interventions and their pre-requisites in the Arab region and cultures other than the West would help in understanding the origin of biases. Exploring why biases or nudges are not as effective  in influencing career decisions of Arab youth as elsewhere may provide a different approach for exploring solutions that persuade Arab youth to enter career fields which face skills shortages and new and emerging fields which may not have the same level of social acceptability as more traditional career tracks.

Khamael Al Safi Khamael Al Safi

Khamael Al Safi specializes in the analysis and design of innovative organizational practices, and the development of tools and approaches for the governance of organizations and markets. Khamael has worked for the people and knowledge development functions of several organizations specialized in financial services, non-profit education and media and publishing. She has a particular interest in the role of behavioral decision making in human and organizational development and has focused her recent research on career choices of youth in the Gulf Arab world. She is a recent graduate of the London School of Economics where she studied for a MSc in Organisations and Governance.

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In “The Vocational School Fallacy in Development Planning” Foster (1964) remarks “Aspirations are determined largely by the individual’s perception of opportunities within the exchange sector of the economy, destinations by the actual structure of opportunities in that sector”(p. 151). Last week Abu Dhabi hosted its annual Emiratization career fair Tawdheef. Assuming that Foster’s assessment of labor market decision making is accurate, the over 30,000 people, 44% of whom were Emirati, presumably shape their opinions of labor market opportunities based on the companies participating in the such events. From this perspective, career shows serve as an important bell weather that calibrates the public’s perceptions of labor market needs.

The Tawdheef exhibitor list shows that 50 companies participated in the event:

  • Approximately 54% of the companies attending the event were public sector companies or government-owned corporations, with the remaining entities from the private sector
  • The majority of company exhibitors were from the Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate, Manufacturing, Public Administration, and Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, And Sanitary Services sectors

Conspicuously absent were representatives of the UAE’s small and medium sized enterprise (SME) sector, despite the prominence of the sector in the UAE and the high employment concentration in small businesses in the UAE and across the Arab region. This was also the first time in the past six years Tawdheef has been hosted that only firms with immediate job opportunities for UAE nationals were permitted to exhibit. This prompts the question: exactly how many jobs are on offer at such events? We estimate around 2,900 jobs.

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In our post Company Sizes in the Arab World: Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Dominate Arab Economies we found that 92% of businesses in the Arab region are under 200 employees. The concentration of SMEs in Arab economies has a significant on employment creation and potential public sector responses the region’s youth employment challenge.

In our post Regional Ranking of the Largest Arab Employers, we show the top 15 largest employers by country

To assemble the below estimates we relied on data from official Tawdheef communications in the media. To approximate the number of jobs on offer for the remaining exhibitors which did not list the quantity of jobs they were recruiting for at the event, we scoured the online recruitment sites of each company and consulted the sites of Tawdheef’s recruitment partners (Bayt.com, Akhtaboot, GovJobs, and Monster.com).  In many cases, companies which participated in Tawdheef did not have any jobs listed on online recruitment channels which career fair attendees could apply to.

CompanySector
IndustryEstimated Number of Jobs
Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC)
PublicTransportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, And Sanitary Services
9
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB)
Public
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate
NA
Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development (ADCED)
Public
Public Administration
NA
Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA)
Government-owned corporation
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate
NA
Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank
Private
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate
NA
Abu Dhabi National Energy Company - TAQA
Government-owned corporation
Manufacturing
NA
Abu Dhabi Police GHQ
Public
Public Administration
NA
Abu Dhabi Quality & Conformity Council
PublicPublic Administration
6
Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority (ADTCA)
Public
Public Administration
NA
Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (ADWEA)
Public
Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, And Sanitary Services
NA
Advanced Integrated Systems
Private
Manufacturing
200
Al Mansoor Group
Private
Manufacturing
NA
AL Mansoori Specialized Engineering
Private
Manufacturing
1000
Al Wathba Company for Central Services
Private
Manufacturing
NA
Commercial Bank International
Private
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate
6
Department of Transport
Public
Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, And Sanitary Services
NA
Dolphin Energy Limited
Government-owned corporation
ManufacturingNA
DU - Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Co.
Government-owned corporation
Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, And Sanitary Services
160
Emirates Advanced Investments
Private
Manufacturing
NA
Emirates Aluminum
Government-owned corporation
Manufacturing
250
Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation
Government-owned corporation
Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, And Sanitary Services
500
Ershaad
Private
Services
30
Etihad
Government-owned corporation
Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, And Sanitary Services
46
Etihad Rail
Government-owned corporation
Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, And Sanitary Services
NA
First Gulf Bank
Private
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate
NA
General Holding Corporation (GHC)
Government-owned corporation
Manufacturing
43
Halliburton
Private
Manufacturing
48
Health Authority Abu Dhabi
Public
Services41
HSBC Bank Middle East Limited
Private
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate
11
Khalifa Fund For Enterprise Development
Public
Public Administration
NA
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels Middle East & Africa
Private
Services
146
Mubadala, Al Mamoura
Government-owned corporation
Construction
3
Musanada
Government-owned corporation
Services
3
National Ambulance Company
Government-owned corporation
Services
NA
National Bank of Abu Dhabi
Private
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate
10
National Health Insurance Company (DAMAN)
Government-owned corporation
Services
50
New York University Abu Dhabi
Private
Services
15
Oasis Hospital
Private
Services
15
Petrofac Emirates LLC
Private
Manufacturing
20
Presidential Guard (PG)
Public
Public Administration
NA
SawaeedPrivate
Services
22
Schlumberger
Private
Manufacturing
1
Standard Chartered Bank
Private
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate
30
State Security Department
Public
Public Administration
NA
Tabah Foundation
Public
Services
4
Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA)
Public
Public Administration
6
TotalPrivateMining
4
UAE Exchange
Private
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate
NA
Union National Bank
PrivateFinance, Insurance, And Real Estate
201