The Role of Education in Preparing Graduates for the Labor Market in the GCC Countries

by Lynn A. Karoly

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In the 21st century knowledge economy, education plays an increasingly important role in preparing new labor market entrants for the workforce and providing skill upgrading throughout the working career. The vital role of education is propelled by the rapid pace of technological change, as well as the interdependent, global economy, forces that together demand a workforce with the capacity for leadership, problem solving, and collaboration and communication in a wide range of economic sectors. Within this context, the education and workforce development systems are critical for supporting human capital development throughout the life course. This paper reviews these broader trends regarding the role of education in the labor market and then considers the implications for education in the countries of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Where data are available, the paper examines patterns of educational attainment overall in these countries, evidence of the quality of the education systems and the graduates they produce, and the labor market benefits of higher educational attainment. It also assesses gender differences, where possible, in each of these indicators of interest. The paper concludes by enumerating several key challenges facing the Gulf countries in promoting strong education systems and well functioning labor markets to meet the labor force needs in the private and public sectors in the 21st century global economy.

This paper series was made possible by the NIA funded RAND Center for the Study of Aging and the NICHD funded RAND Population Research Center.

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