RIYADH — The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the professional landscape, driving a paradigm shift in attitudes concerning long-term employment. According to a new study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bayt.com, almost two-thirds of workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are prepared to pursue different career paths post-crisis, expressing a high willingness to retrain and develop new skillsets before embarking on new roles.
A report based on the study, Decoding Global Reskilling and Career Paths, is the third in a series of publications that BCG and Bayt.com have issued about the pandemic’s impact on people’s work preferences and careers, with this particular edition providing insights ascertained from various countries. From a Saudi Arabia standpoint, the findings are based on responses from 1,185 workforce participants in diverse positions and highlight potential employment trends that could emerge in due course.
As a result of the economic unpredictability stemming from the pandemic, professionals from a majority of industries are apprehensive, at least to some degree, regarding the future role of technology. Overall, 33 percent of Saudi workers feel that the threat of their positions becoming automated has increased in the past year.
Workers over the age of 60 and younger people aged 20-40 are particularly aware of this risk, potentially due to greater awareness among younger generations and the nature of jobs held by their elders. Moreover, automation concerns are particularly pressing among those in white-collar service, consulting, and administrative positions, while people least concerned are those with human-centric roles, including sales and social care.
“The accelerated speed of digital transformation and technological disruption has given rise to widespread individual debate. Many are concerned about job security in a post-pandemic tech-driven climate, with workers questioning their futures due to the continued emergence of automation,” said Dr. Christopher Daniel, managing director and partner, BCG Middle East.
“This has subsequently led to a change in mindset among the working population, as evidenced by almost seven in ten respondents expressing their belief that retraining will open new and alternative professional avenues.”
Of the Saudi respondents, 66 percent are willing to retrain for a different job role, and this emerging trend is also consistent across degree types and age groups. Media and information professionals, social care workers, and those involved in purchasing and logistics expressed the most willingness to retrain, with the media and financial institutions industries demonstrating the highest willingness overall.
In terms of learning, 67% said that they now dedicate a few weeks minimum to skillset development over the course of a year, with this applying to workers from all age groups and various higher education backgrounds. Since the outset of the ongoing pandemic, law, media, digital, consulting, and creative jobs have recorded the highest levels of training.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has demonstrated strong improvement in training resources since 2018. Self-study rose from 50% in 2018 to 60% in 2020 — close to the global average of 62% — with generous government programs reaching 21% last year. Participation in conferences and seminars has fallen from 45% to 31% in the same timeframe, while mobile application usage for training purposes has increased from 16% to 41%.
“Saudi workers from different verticals are broadening their horizons, having evaluated their current roles in the long-term and concluded that their future might lie in a different sector or career path,” said Dr. Daniel. “The apparent uptake is self-study is a clear indication of people’s determination to take extra steps and secure new positions for years to come. The pandemic’s impact on livelihoods from a professional perspective cannot be overlooked, and a considerable amount of people have suffered over the past year.”
The pandemic has directly impacted a considerable percentage of the Saudi workforce. In total, 38 percent of respondents reported that recent events have had a detrimental effect on their employment status, slightly above 36 percent global average. Some have had their working hours reduced, while others have experienced redundancy due to economic turbulence.
Workers with a lower level of education have been particularly impacted, individuals who previously acquired bachelor’s degrees and above have fared better, and workers aged 41-50 have been most affected. Specific job roles, such as media and social care, were heavily hindered, and the travel and tourism sector also suffered significantly. Therefore, many people are enthused by the idea of retraining and embarking on new opportunities that provide greater professional security. — SG