Online talent platforms: labor market connectors for the digital era in the GCC

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Youth unemployment is one of the Middle East’s biggest challenges.

Even as unemployment remains high and people are unable to land good jobs, too often employers report that they are unable to find suitable candidates, and many good jobs go unfilled.

Designing interventions to rectify this is not easy. Online talent platforms, more commonly known as job sites, however, see an opportunity in this challenge.

Crowded market of online talent platforms

According to a report launched by the McKinsey Global Institute, online talent platforms can take on the form of websites, mobile apps, or proprietary corporate systems.

“They gather a huge volume of information regarding both individual workers and employers or work projects, then synthesize this data to match individuals with job opportunities and produce better work outcomes,” the report said.

Onegcc.com is dedicated to GCC nationals. (Image via Onegcc.com)

McKinsey estimates that online talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion to global GDP by 2025, while increasing employment by 72 million full-time equivalent positions.

Bayt.com, Zawya.com, and Naukrigulf.com are among some of the oldest platforms in the MENA region. They have been around since the early 2000s, but online talent platforms have continued to innovate and cater to specific markets, niche opportunities, and local talent pools.

Onegcc.com is a platform completely dedicated to GCC nationals. Free for both job seekers and employers, it provides them with a wide range of tools catered specific to the region’s youth unemployment challenge.

The old days. (Image via Flickr)

According to the World Bank, youth unemployment rates in the GCC are more than twice as large as overall unemployment rates in their respective economies.

Alharith Alatawi, COO of Onegcci said that more than 30,000 registered on the site and they expect to reach two million job seekers by 2018.

Glowork, a Saudi-based startup, targets women by matching them with opportunities in sectors previously inaccessible to women. As a partner to the country’s Ministry of Labor, Glowork works to reduce the unemployment burden by earning a commission every time they find a job for one of the 1.6 million women registered in the database.

Majra, is one of the newest platforms, launched from Bahrain. They believe that interviewing is a two-way street, with both job-seekers and employers learning as much about each other during the hiring process. Since launching, Majra has had significant traction of 15 percent growth in numbers of job seekers signing up every week.

When asked about competing platforms in the market, founder of Mahmood Zeyad noted that Majra is committed to “solving different problems,” and instead, sees room for collaboration, rather than competition with other online talent platforms.

At the intersection of labor markets and technology

Online talent platforms democratize information, reduce job search costs, and ultimately reduce labor market inefficiencies, according to a Dalberg Global Development Advisors essay for the 13th Brookings Blum Roundtable last year.

Majra, a new recruitment launch from Bahrain. (Image via Majra)

The disruption of labor markets is occurring along the fault lines of technology, and online platforms are responding to market priorities to keep up.

Beyond matching skills, Onegcc also offers different psychometric analysis, and a gamified experience to increase job seeker-employer engagement. In fact, human resources research has demonstrated that gamification in recruitment allows employers to select more diverse talent.

“We are also thinking about the introduction of other functionalities, including an offer negotiator and interview trainer,” said Alatawi.

Are online talent platforms enough?

Perhaps. It’s no secret that online talent platforms have created a more transparent and productive job market.

However, their effects will be curbed by the GCC’s underlying strains of transitioning from government-driven to private-sector labor markets.

Dalberg Advisors note that it will be critical for governments in developing economies to improve ICT infrastructure, and potentially incentivize companies to use digital job platforms via tax credits, or lead by example and adopt digital job platforms for their own recruitment.

And in conjunction, investors, can participate in creating an enabling environment by providing early-stage or growth funding to launch platforms.

“To capitalize on the opportunities that digital platforms present and enable these platforms to fulfill their potential, stakeholders need to take coordinated action.”

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