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04 October 2023

Coursera Global Skills Report 2023: UAE Leads the Region in Skills Development and Ranks #2 in Business Skills Globally

By E247

The latest Global Skills Report from Coursera, one of the world’s largest online learning platforms, has confirmed the UAE's leading position both regionally and globally in developing digital skills. According to the report, the UAE is ranked first for overall skill proficiency in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, whilst also claiming the second-highest score globally for business skills. 

Drawing on data from 124 million learners in more than 100 countries who have used Coursera to develop a new skill during the past year, the Global Skills Report 2023 benchmarks three of the most in-demand skill areas driving employment in the digital economy - business, technology, and data science. The proficiency levels are compared against one another by using percentile rankings; 76% or above is considered ‘cutting-edge’, 51%-75% is ‘competitive’, 26%-50% is ‘emerging’, and 25% or below is ‘lagging’. 

In the UAE, while scoring highly in business skills (99%), learners also showed a very high aptitude for communication (#1 globally), leadership and management, and human resources skills (both #2 globally). 

Besides scoring highly in leadership-related skills, it’s also an area where UAE learners are most interested. Compared to those in other countries, learners in the UAE are more likely to invest in leadership skills, like people development, negotiation, and leadership development. This focus on human and leadership skills could serve as a crucial asset in overcoming the disruption set to be caused by the rapid emergence of generative AI.

To ensure competitiveness, especially as the country evolves into a global hub for technology and innovation, the report has identified data science (24%) as a critical area for growth, whereas learners are scoring the highest in data visualization (64%). Continuous investments and ongoing skills development in this sector will be required to take advantage of the opportunities created by the mainstreaming of advanced technologies across industries.

The country’s real strength lies in its business skills, with learners demonstrating a very high proficiency across nearly every skill set, except for accounting (35%). The country's strong technological push is evident from the cutting-edge scores earned by UAE learners in skills such as security engineering (90%), software engineering (88%), and computer networking (97%). 

Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO, Coursera, said: “The rise of digital jobs and remote work is creating unprecedented opportunities for local talent to participate in the global workforce if they have the right skills and credentials. This report provides actionable insights on the rapidly changing skills landscape and talent distribution worldwide that will help institutions inform their human capital and workforce strategies.” 

Ranked #32 globally, the UAE has over 800,000 Coursera learners which represents 7.98% of the country’s working age population. The learners have a median age of 35 years, of which 42% are women and 45% pursue their learning on mobile devices. With a 22% enrollment growth rate, learners in the UAE are increasingly investing in Professional Certificates to prepare for digital jobs. This is in line with the country’s ongoing investments in human capital under the framework of the ‘Principles of the 50’ that aims to attract talent, retain specialists, and continuously build skills to drive its future growth.

Key findings from MENA

The MENA region, with 7.2 million Coursera learners, is strongest in business skills (52%), but leaders could further invest in developing technology (28%) and data science (25%) skills.

Learners in the UAE lead (99%) in business skills, with Oman (97%), Bahrain (90%), Saudi Arabia (81%), and Qatar (78%) also achieving cutting-edge scores. Technology remains a gap throughout the region with learners in Saudi Arabia achieving the highest skill score (68%). Data science marks an area of improvement across the region where 37% of all learners are women and the median age is 30.

The report also analyzes over-indexing skills, which looks at the specific skill sets that learners in a specific country or region are enrolling in more than all other learners on the platform. Compared to other regions, learners in MENA are more likely to invest in marketing skills like social media (1.44x) and advertising (1.43x), along with leadership skills like people analysis (1.66x), human learning (1.6x), and influencing (1.42x). They are also more likely to invest in AI-related data science skills like deep learning (1.21x), artificial neural networks (1.2x), and computer vision (1.17x), and technology skills like computer graphic techniques (1.38x), graphic design (1.31x) and interactive design (1.15x).