How digital education is transforming job opportunities for women and youth in MENA

Tahani Karrar / September 2018

Demand for digital skills is increasing in the global job market, and women and youth in the Middle East and North Africa are benefitting from this shift.

According to the World Economic Forum, one in five jobs in Arabic-speaking countries will require digital skills by the year 2020.

MENA has the world’s lowest female economic participation with seven out of 10 women registering as unemployed, despite holding a university degree, being literate and having access to the internet. In most cases, these women are forced to rely on a guardian for income.

Since its launch in April 2018, Maharat min Google, has registered tens of thousands of subscriptions from Arabic-speaking learners in MENA.

One example is Iraqi university student Ali Mutashar, 22-years-old, who started managing marketing campaigns after learning the basics of digital marketing on the platform.

“I was able to grow in my marketing career and recently paid off my student loans as a result," Mutashar said.

Other learners have gone on to create their own businesses including Pink Taxi in Egypt. The all-female taxi company currently employees 450 women and caters to thousands of customers.

High demand for free Arabic marketing content

According to industry research, only 38% of students in MENA believe their traditional education will effectively prepare them for the workplace. Moreover, about 27 million MENA youth are looking for roles that are currently not open, indicating a surplus of supply but not enough demand from the job sector.

“In today’s digital market it’s really hard to find good quality Arabic digital marketing content, that is 100% free,” said Google Product Marketing Manager Zain Masri.

“The more we push this program, the more we realise there is a deep hunger for it and people in MENA are looking for this type of value-add,” she added. “Our aim is to make this essential training more accessible to as many people as possible.”  

Based on a similar model to Google’s Digital Garage in the UK, Maharat min Google covers over 100 topics around digital skills, online marketing and how to best utilise the world wide web. New courses are added every quarter and include topics such as: ‘Introduction to Code’ and ‘Introduction to Machine Learning’.

Online education is now supported with localised job search

Another job market trend witnessed over the past five years is the consistent growth in job-related queries in MENA. Google Trends data shows Arabic job-related queries often spike in the summer months.

Furthermore, jobseekers are increasingly turning to recruitment websites and job apps. The Job Search feature on the main Google Search results page provides jobseekers with details including job location, date of posting and a job description from the employer.

“Job seekers can now be alerted by email to opportunities that come up across multiple portals, thereby simplifying the process of finding and applying to jobs,” said Tarek Abdalla, Google’s Regional Head of Marketing in the Middle East and North Africa, adding jobseekers can save and bookmark their searches while preparing their resumes or cover letters.

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