GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Building an STI workforce in the GCC: Key Challenges
Paper Proposal Text :
Policymakers across the GCC have widely acknowledged that strengthening economic diversification and competitiveness will depend upon the establishment of strong science, technology and innovation (STI) industries in the region and that this will require the development of a highly skilled workforce, particularly in fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Coincidentally, advanced and emerging economies, such as the UK, US, India and China, are also urgently seeking to build and strengthen their STI workforces having also recognized that economic competitiveness in the future will be founded chiefly on knowledge industries. This indicates that economies will be increasingly competing with each other for top talent in STI fields thus paving with the way for a ‘global skills race’ . This poses a serious challenge for the GCC due to certain characteristics of traditional labour markets in the region.

Historically, GCC economies have relied heavily on a somewhat transient external labour force which is bound by temporary contracts and typified by constant churn. Expatriate workers will clearly continue being a key feature of the regional labor market at least in the medium term given the current growth rate and skill levels of national populations. Therefore, developing a highly skilled STI workforce in the region will require drawing and retaining highly skilled professionals to beef up the GCCs nascent knowledge industries in the near term and also to educate, train and develop local talent for the long term . However, due to various labor market particularities in the context of foreign labor, such as temporary contracts, weak residency security and certain restrictions on property ownership and investments highly skilled professionals may be lost to other more attractive economies . This poses significant challenges to the development of a highly skilled STI workforce in the GCC, which may impede the regions competitiveness in the knowledge economy. The purpose of the present study will be to assess these challenges and work towards finding politically and culturally acceptable models to address them.