Can GCC continue to afford high cost of ‘western' talent? Experts think not

'Region growing up and mature'

During the days of ‘war for talent’ a candidate’s passport and country of origin played a big role in deciding the salary she/he would get and his position in a company.

Fast forward a few years and the same people now seem too pricey and not really needed in the region anymore. Have they been made redundant or has the region outgrown them?

According to Metin Mitchell, Managing Director of Metin Mitchell & Co., an executive search and management advisory firm in the region believes “Middle East’s dependence on expertise from Western expatriates is no longer required.”

He also believes expatriates already in the region are too expensive and they are now in direct competition with talent from ‘distressed markets’ such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland who will come and work for less. He voiced his opinion at a recently concluded London Business School’s Middle East Management Forum.

“With the exception of certain key talented CEOs, I am of the firm belief that across all sectors now the age of the Western expatriate in the Middle East is over,” he said.

“Western expatriates are no longer required. They don’t provide any particular value that can’t be found in other nationalities either locally or from other parts of the world.

“Western expatriates now need to be thinking about taking their careers elsewhere such as Sub-Saharan Africa where there is demand and where there are job opportunities. We now need to think about this region differently – it’s growing up and it’s mature.”

The panellists at the forum discussed at length about executive recruitment in the region. They believe the region is still an attractive place for international talent, but there is growing competition from emerging markets, including China, India, Brazil, countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America.

“We’ve moved on and I can say that the madness about talent from the West has subsided. I won’t say companies don’t want expat talent from these countries but it’s on the employer’s terms and conditions,’ said the HR manager of a bank in Dubai, without wishing to be quoted.

Now, with country of origin becoming less relevant, there are other factors that play an important role in getting jobs in the region.

Regionally located expat candidates with local knowledge of clients and a command over the Arabic language have gained prominence.

“We are certainly seeing more coming from distressed markets who are showing more flexibility in packages but regionally located expat candidates continue to offer great value and knowledge to clients,” said Mark Houghton, Managing Partner of Odgers Berndtson.

The forum also threw light on the increasing importance of nationalisation in the GCC countries and low hiring levels at multinational companies. “Multinational corporations are not recruiting at the levels they were before the global economic downturn. They have large entrenched workforces around the world where they move people from A to B,” according to the panellists.


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