Employment In The Middle East – Statistics and Trends [Infographic]

Created: Dec 16, 2013

Updated: June 19, 2024

When you think about employment in the Middle East, what comes to mind? Perhaps it's the towering skyscrapers of Dubai, the vast oil fields of Saudi Arabia, or the bustling markets of Cairo. The employment landscape in this diverse and dynamic region is shaped by a myriad of factors, from its rich natural resources to its youthful population. Understanding these employment trends is crucial for businesses, policymakers, and job seekers alike.

With 50% of employees less than 29 years old, the Middle East region has the highest unemployment rate of 19% in the world, and 66% of employees feel that their salaries are lower than those paid by other firms in the same industry. Check out our infographic "Employment In The Middle East – Statistics and Trends " to know more about the employment industry, career opportunities,  and hiring expectancy, and job trends in the Middle East.

Employment In The Middle East Statistics


The MENA region saw the highest unemployment rate in the world – 19%.

About 3 in 5 across GCC countries consider their governments to be very favorable employers.

Employee Demographics By Age (Middle East)

18-29 50%
30-39 33%
40-49 12%
50+ 5%

Employee Demographics By Work Status

Full-time (30 or more hours) 73%
Part-time (8 to 29 hours) 6%
Part-time (less than 8 hours) 2%
Unemployed 19%

One in four professionals in the Middle East and North Africa claim they are new employees as they’ve worked there for less than a year.

26% of employees say they have been working for 1 to 2 years with the current employer.

Years Of Service In The Same Job

Less than 1 year 20%
1 year 10%
2 years 16%
3 years 12%
4-7 years 27%
8 years or more 15%

On average, most of the respondents have held 2 jobs over the last 5 years in Middle East.

Number Of Jobs Held In The Last 5 Years

1 27%
2 36%
3 22%
4 6%
5 3%
More than 5 3%

53% of professionals with jobs in MENA prefer a ‘100% fixed pay structure’.

Pay Structure Stats- (Middle East)

100% fixed pay structure 53%
Mix of fixed and variable structures 40%
100% variable pay structure 7%

66% of MENA employees feel that their salaries are lower than those paid by other firms in the same industry. So the employees in the Middle East

Preferred Industries For Employment

Banking / Finance 35%
Construction 32%
Telecommunication 31%
Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals 28%
IT 25%
Consumer Goods 22%
Advertising 21%
Tourism/ Hospitality 20%
Electronics 20%
Business Consultancy 18%

Most Common Reasons For Switching Industries

Better salaries 39%
Better  career growth 35%
Lack of recognition 27%
Better job security 20%
Better work culture 18%
Better work-life balance maintenance 14%
Lower unemployment risks 14%
Flexible timings 12%

The UAE public sector enjoys twice as many holidays as the private sector

90% of the 225,000 Middle East workforce are employed in the public sector.

Emiratis account for only 20,000 of the four million workers in the private sector

Current Hiring Expectancy by Country

Saudi Arabia 65%
Qatar 63%
Kuwait 60%
UAE 57%
Oman 56%
Jordan 52%
Egypt 52%
Lebanon 50%
Syria 46%
Bahrain 38%

Demographic Influences on Employment

A key demographic characteristic of the Middle East is its young population. With a significant percentage of the population under the age of 30, there is a pressing need for job creation. This youthful demographic presents both an opportunity and a challenge, as the region strives to provide adequate employment opportunities to harness this potential.

Youth Population and Employment

The youth unemployment rate in the Middle East is among the highest globally. Countries are investing heavily in education and training programs to equip young people with the skills needed in a modern economy. However, aligning education outcomes with market needs remains a challenge.

Gender Disparities in the Workforce

Another significant demographic trend is gender disparity in the workforce. While there have been strides in increasing female participation, cultural and socio-economic barriers still limit women's employment opportunities. Countries like Saudi Arabia have introduced reforms to encourage female employment, but progress varies across the region.

Sector-Specific Employment Trends

Oil and Gas Sector

The oil and gas sector remains a major employer in the Middle East. Despite the volatility in oil prices, this industry continues to offer substantial employment opportunities, particularly in engineering, geology, and management.

Technology and Innovation

There's a growing emphasis on technology and innovation. Countries like the UAE and Israel are emerging as tech hubs, with significant investments in startups and digital infrastructure. This shift is creating new job opportunities in IT, cybersecurity, and digital marketing.

Construction and Infrastructure

Massive construction projects, from skyscrapers to smart cities, are a hallmark of the Middle East. The construction sector is a significant employer, offering jobs in engineering, project management, and skilled trades.

Tourism and Hospitality

Tourism is a key driver of employment in countries like the UAE and Egypt. The sector employs a vast number of people in hotels, restaurants, and tour services. The push to diversify economies has led to increased investment in tourism infrastructure.

Education and Healthcare

As the population grows, so does the need for education and healthcare services. These sectors are expanding, providing numerous job opportunities for teachers, doctors, nurses, and administrative staff.

Future Employment Trends

Predicted Growth Sectors

Future growth sectors include renewable energy, technology, and healthcare. These sectors are expected to drive job creation as countries diversify their economies and adopt new technologies.

Technological Advancements and Job Creation

Technological advancements like AI, IoT (Internet of Things), and blockchain are poised to create new job roles. Keeping pace with these advancements through continuous learning and adaptation is crucial for job seekers.

Case Studies

Successful Employment Initiatives

Case studies from countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia showcase successful employment initiatives. These include government-led programs and private sector collaborations that have significantly reduced unemployment rates.

Lessons Learned from Various Countries

Lessons learned highlight the importance of aligning education with market needs, promoting female employment, and leveraging technology for job creation. These insights can guide future employment strategies in the region.


Employment in the Middle East is a complex and evolving landscape. From the influence of the oil and gas sector to the rise of technology and innovation, various factors shape job opportunities in the region. Government policies, demographic trends, and economic diversification efforts play crucial roles. As the region navigates these changes, continuous adaptation and investment in education and skills development will be key to creating sustainable employment opportunities.


1. What are the main sectors driving employment in the Middle East? The main sectors include oil and gas, technology, construction, tourism, education, and healthcare.

2. How are governments in the Middle East addressing youth unemployment? Governments are implementing education reforms, vocational training programs, and nationalization policies to address youth unemployment.

3. What is the impact of foreign workers on the Middle Eastern job market? Foreign workers play a significant role, particularly in the Gulf states, but recent policy changes are encouraging more local hires.

4. How is digital transformation affecting employment in the Middle East? Digital transformation is creating new job opportunities in tech-related fields while making some traditional jobs obsolete.

5. What initiatives are promoting female employment in the Middle East? Initiatives like Vision 2030 in Saudi Arabia and the UAE's gender balance strategy are promoting female employment through education, entrepreneurship, and supportive work environments.

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