GCC chemicals industry creating local jobs with varied success

14 October 2014

Industry group says almost 150,000 people directly employed in regional chemicals sector

The GCC chemicals industry is responsible for employing 148,900 people and indirectly creating an additional 446,800 jobs. However, the six countries in the bloc have had varied success in creating jobs for citizens in their chemicals operations, according to new data released by regional industry group Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association (GPCA).

The region’s petrochemicals sector has grown dramatically over the past decade as governments have utilised low-cost gas resources as feedstock to produce ethylene-based plastics and other commodity products.

GPCA estimates that the GCC produced $102bn-worth of products in 2013, making it the second-largest manufacturing sector in the region.

Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest employer in the regional petrochemicals sector, employing 83,755, while the UAE comes in second, providing 38,100 jobs.

Creating jobs for citizens is one of the key drivers behind diversifying industrial operations in the GCC and the six countries have had mixed success in achieving this aim. According to GPCA, national citizens make up 56 per cent of the workforce in the regional chemicals industry.

“Petrochemicals is evolving into an industry that touches nearly every sector of the GCC economy, from technology, equipment manufacturing, construction and agriculture to retail and trade,” says Abdulwahab al-Sadoun, the secretary-general of GPCA. “On a global level, the GCC can help meet rising chemical demand and, in the process, create new, medium- and high-skilled employment for talented GCC nationals.”

Although Bahrain has the smallest chemicals industry in the GCC, at 83 per cent, it had the highest ratio of nationals in the workforce in 2013, increasing from 75 per cent in 2012.

The Saudi, Kuwait and Oman chemicals industries have workforces with nationals making up 63 per cent, 61 per cent and 57 per cent respectively.

However, citizens in the UAE and Qatar have relatively small penetration in the chemicals industry, making up just 23 per cent and 19 per cent of total employees in either country.

In Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, the percentage of citizens employed by the chemicals industry dropped by one percentage point, offsetting greater success in Bahrain.

This number is likely to be even lower in the jobs created indirectly from the chemicals industry, in industrial sectors supplying the chemicals industry with equipment and services, and companies consuming chemical products.

The UAE and Qatar chemicals industries must focus on making the sector more attractive to locals if the governments are to achieve their aim of creating jobs for locals.

“The UAE’s petrochemicals industry has steadily built a solid base of highly skilled human capital over the past few years,” says Al- Sadoun. “While other markets in the region may have access to a larger pool of financial or human resources, the UAE has managed to create some of the highest-value products in the region, earning valuable revenues for the country’s economy.”  

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