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Middle East Edition
21st July 2021
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More ‘future-proof’ tech jobs expected in UAE
The National Programme for Coders has been launched in the UAE to fast-track the development of local talent and expertise in the technology sector. The initiative seeks to train and attract 100,000 coders and establish 1,000 digital companies in five years. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Cisco, IBM, HPE, LinkedIn, Nvidia and Facebook are among partners of the programme. Shukri Eid, managing director of Cisco Gulf region, said:  “We believe that stimulating innovation and establishing a skilled workforce is critical for the growth of the digital economy, and with it, the creation of a more inclusive future. Owing to the efforts of the government, the UAE is already well-positioned in terms of digital readiness. This initiative illustrates an ongoing commitment to future-proof both job roles and the economy.” A Facebook spokesperson added: “We are committed to support the local digital economy and look forward to leveraging our expertise to connect with and empower UAE communities, develop and deploy AI capabilities that are safe, fair, transparent, and accountable to the public and most importantly create a positive impact on the world.”

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Google staff wait to hear whether their remote work plans will be approved
Bloomberg reports that Google’s ongoing deliberation about which individual employees will get to continue working full time remotely and who will need to come in to the office is causing staff to be frustrated by a lack of clear direction and uneven enforcement of the policy. Despite an unexpected rebound in productivity in the remote working era, the company is sticking with its plan to bring most employees back to offices this fall. Internal research at Google also showed that employees want more “collaboration and social connections” at work, according to Brian Welle, a human resources vice president at the Alphabet unit. Welle did not provide exact data but said “more than 75%” of surveyed employees answered this way, adding that most staff also specifically wished for physical proximity when working on new projects. "There’s something about innovative work — when you need that spark . . . Our employees feel like those moments happen better when they’re together,” he said.
Apple is to delay office returns until October
Apple is to delay the return of staff to its offices by at least a month to October at the earliest and is recommending that workers at its retail stores, whether vaccinated or not, wear masks as COVID-19 cases surge in the U.S. and elsewhere. In localities where the authorities have reinstated mask mandates, retail workers must comply, the company told its employees. Apple had dropped its internal mask mandate in June. The iPhone maker will inform its employees at least a month before their expected return to offices, according to people familiar with the matter.  Apple CEO  Tim Cook had originally planned a summer return. When staff members eventually return, they are expected to work from the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Wednesday and Friday will be optionally remote for some employees. Workers specialising in hardware will be required to work from the office four or five days per week. Apple says the return to work arrangement is a pilot and will be reevaluated next year.
Female workers serve pilgrims in Grand Mosque
Authorities in Saudi Arabia have allocated 825 female workers in the Grand Mosque in Mecca to provide a range of services to women pilgrims. Wadha bint Abdul Rahman, the head of the Women Services Department, said the cohort includes 227 female workers who are tasked with welcoming the women worshippers at the gates of the holy site, and handing them bags to keep their personal items in as a precaution against COVID-19. Other female workers will ensure sterilisation and carpet clean-up of those areas designated for women worshippers in the mosque, in addition to 48 female security guards.
Saudi Arabia extends validity of permits and visas for expats
Saudi Arabia is automatically extending the validity of residence permits (Iqama) for expatriates outside the kingdom and is also extending the validity of visit visas and exit and re-entry visas without fees or charges for all expatriates until the end of August. The extensions, which were issued by the Ministry of Finance, are among continued efforts by Saudi Arabia's government to deal with the repercussions of the pandemic.
Fake domestic labour offices are raided in Kuwait
Kuwait’s General Administration of Residency Affairs Investigations Department has raided three fictitious hiring offices for domestic workers and arrested scores of residence law violators, reports Al-Jarida daily. The raids are part of an ongoing campaign to arrest residence law violators in all governorates.
Ben & Jerry's to halt sales in Palestinian territories
Ben & Jerry's has said it will end the sale of its ice cream in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The ice cream maker said it was "inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)." Ben & Jerry's said the move reflected the concerns of "fans and trusted partners." In a statement, the company said the changes will be made by allowing current licensing arrangements to expire at the end of next year. But it will not say how it will stop its products from reaching places that it doesn't want them to be sold in.
Capital One wants to hire 3,000 software engineers
Capital One aims to recruit more than 3,000 technologists by the end of the year, partly as a consequence of the bank’s migration to Amazon's public cloud infrastructure. The lender is using the transition as a selling point for new hires. “The great thing about being in the cloud [is] that's where engineers want to work,” said Mike Eason, senior vice president of engineering for data and machine learning at Capital One. Banks have typically been slower than other businesses to move sensitive data to the cloud, citing security concerns and regulatory barriers. “A lot of banks think the ultimate landing point should be a hybrid approach, with the most sensitive customer information in a private data center and less sensitive information in the cloud,” observes Brian Foran, senior analyst at financial sector research company Autonomous Research.
BlackRock increases opposition to high executive pay in Europe
BlackRock has increased its opposition to executive pay in Europe over the past year, details of the asset manager’s voting records show, indicating an increased willingness to drive up corporate governance standards. BlackRock said it voted against management on 33% of “say-on-pay” proposals in European companies in the year to the end of June – up from 26% last year. This increase in opposition votes was “largely attributed” to BlackRock's opposition to adjustments that companies made during the pandemic. “BlackRock opposed executive pay programmes when companies were not able to explain how these adjustments supported long-term, sustainable value creation for shareholders, ” said Sandy Boss, global head of investment stewardship.
Senate passes bill to ban Xinjiang goods unless waiver given
A bill has been passed by the U.S. Senate that would ban all goods from or made in China's Xinjiang region unless importers can prove they weren’t made with forced labor. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act requires the U.S Department of Homeland Security to create a list of entities who collaborate with the Chinese government in the repression of ethnic minority Uyghurs and other groups. It also contains a “rebuttable presumption” that assumes all goods were made with forced labor unless the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection gives an exception. Bloomberg notes that the U.S. has repeatedly criticized Beijing over its actions in Xinjiang, saying they amount to genocide and crimes against humanity. 
Finns aren't what they used to be
Happiness rates among Finns have fallen since 2016 – although Finland remains the happiest country in the world for a fourth consecutive year. Seventy-six per cent of respondents reported being quite happy, down from 80 per cent in 2016, according to a survey conducted by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (EVA) which suggests that one in five Finns is unhappy, up from 17 per cent in 2016. The ‘quite happy’ response is nevertheless still a high figure compared to international statistics.  "One of the reasons for the decline in happiness may be the effects of the coronavirus crisis on working life and the lives of people of working age," EVA research manager Ilkka Haavisto said. The biggest decline in happiness was observed among those in leadership positions, academically educated, entrepreneurs, employees and those between the ages of 26 and 55 years.

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