4 in 10 UAE workers perceive automation as a job threat

26 July 2021 Consultancy-me.com 3 min. read

Fearful of losing their jobs to short and long term market dynamics, professionals in the UAE are – according to a study by Boston Consulting Group – honing new skills to up their future competitiveness. 

Automation has been threatening jobs for decades – a shift that began with repetitive tasks in the manufacturing, industrial and agricultural sectors, but is now making its way up the skill profile. The era of artificial intelligence and machine learning is now, and these tools are being tuned to a higher level of sophistication with every day. 

Around 40% of workers around the world feel their jobs are at risk from automation as a result, according to Boston Consulting Group’s mammoth survey of more than 200,000 people in 190 countries worldwide. The sentiment was mirrored by nearly 1,000 respondents in the UAE.

Perceived Automation Threat by Country

“The increasing presence of automation in work processes has seen concerns regarding job security rise substantially, with many now questioning their futures as a result,” explained Boston Consulting Group Middle East managing director and partner Christopher Daniel, speaking to Gulf News. 

And there are numbers to back this perceived threat: a McKinsey & Company study from 2018 revealed that almost half of all jobs across the Middle East could be automated at some stage.Topping this off is the very immediate risk from the pandemic-induced economic crisis, which threatens nearly a million UAE jobs according to an October 2020 study from Oxford Economics. 

Making a move

“As such, workers have experienced a change in professional outlook,” explained Daniel, alluding to droves of UAE employees who are now exploring their options.  

A Geographical Look at the Appetite for Retraining

“Irrespective of their professions, UAE workforce members are preparing to enter new career paths. They have analysed their long-term futures in their current positions, with many concluding that other roles and industries will provide greater job security.”

Skills are the heart and soul of this shift. Jobs of the future require a firm grip on technology – be it operating a software robot or working with data analytics tool, to name a few examples. Previously pegged to tech jobs, these skills now form the core of many in a digitally transformed industry. 

And workers are well aware of this fact. The researchers found that more than 60% of UAE professionals – across all age groups and backgrounds – would be willing to retrain themselves for a new job opportunity. Weeks and months of self-study are already underway, with many in the country ready to make a change ahead of the curve.

BCG’s finding echoes a similar one in a recent PwC study, which found that workers in the GCC are embracing the idea that they need to up their digital skills in order to remain up-to-date with skill profile developments.