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‘Liquid workforce’ to change regional labour market

The need for flexibility in the digital workplace will mean a greater need for adaptable short-term workers

Gulf News

DUBAI: Omar Boulos, Accenture’s Middle East managing director, believes the growing need for flexible workers in flexible roles will bring changes to the region’s labour market.

The need for companies to develop a competitive advantage amid the growing use of technology and the demands of the digital workplace is leading to what Accenture describes as the “liquid workforce”: a highly adaptable pool of people with transferable skills working in rapidly changing teams to suit the company’s goals.

As part of Accenture’s Technology Vision 2016 report, the consultancy interviewed business people from around the world. In the UAE, firms interviewed expected about 53 per cent of their workforce to be permanent.

“The rest of the workforce has to come from somewhere,” said Boulos in an interview on the fringes of Gitex 2016. “Somewhere is temporary labour, subcontracting, leveraging skills that exist in the market on demand.

“Culturally, in this part of the world, people graduate looking for permanent long-term positions for all the reasons that we know. And I think one of the key things that we need to figure out as an industry is how do we allow a liquid workforce to exist in this kind of model.”

Asked to reconcile this vision of a short-term, liquid workforce with the sponsorship system that dominates the labour markets in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Boulos said, “I don’t see resistance from the existing set-up. What I do see in this part of the world is a recognition that as things need to change they will change.

“The model of the past was good for what we needed in the past.”

He pointed to the focus on start-ups and ecosystems that empower them as an example of the changing market. “That’s a big difference, even over the last 12 months or so.”

The job market for individual workers “has not changed yet, but that’s sure to come as you look at the liquid workforce,” he said.