Abu Dhabi: Construction activities in healthcare and education will spur many projects in the GCC and Middle East, industry officials say.

The key driver behind this is the region's demographics. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the population is expected to grow by almost 50 per cent to about 28 million by 2020, said Shady Shaher, Senior Economist for the Middle East and North Africa at Standard Chartered Bank.

In Saudi Arabia, 750 new schools are being built and another 3,200 to begin construction, he said. "There's a backlog of 32,000 kilometres of roads ... they're building another 4,000 kilometres of roads. They're building 17 new hospitals this year."

Samer Khoury, President of Engineering and Construction at the Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), told a conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday that the company will be looking more aggressively at the healthcare sector in the future.

Job prospects

Similarly, Khaldoun Tabari, Chief Executive Officer of Drake & Scull International, said that there's much potential for jobs in that sector.

"There are 12 hospitals announced in Kuwait. Twenty to 30 hospitals in Saudi Arabia, and plenty of hospitals coming up in Abu Dhabi."

Dubai, for instance, has allocated 29 per cent of its Dh32.26 billion budget to social development, which includes healthcare, education, housing and culture, making these sectors the second highest recipients after infrastructure, transportation and economic development.

Matthew Green, Head of Research and Consultancy at CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) in the UAE, said that the move for the industry is a very positive one. "You will see more and more of this… it's important for the overall progression of these countries," he said.

In countries where there are big stimulus packages, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, a large portion of the budget is going into social infrastructure and into the improvement of schooling facilities and training for locals, Green explained.

One of the key drivers of this is the fact that the social infrastructure has not kept up with the rapidly growing population.

"It's also one [a region] that has regional health issues," he said.

Green said that the players in this industry will be looking at the potential gaps within the market from which they can create value.

"They're trying to source new ways to generate income when the normal sources of demand are not there," he said.