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Middle East Edition
10th July 2024
 
THE HOT STORY
Royal Oman Police urges companies and individuals to only employ legal workers
The Royal Oman Police (ROP) is cracking down on illegal immigration and urging companies and individuals to only employ legal workers. Employing illegal immigrants is considered an anti-national act and is punishable by Omani labour law. The ROP is making efforts to combat illegal immigration by monitoring borders, implementing security campaigns, and educating society about the dangers of this phenomenon. Employing non-Omani workers who are not licensed can result in fines and prison terms. Helping infiltrated workers can also lead to legal consequences. The ROP emphasises that facilitating hackers' affairs is a crime. The cooperation of society, citizens, and expatriates is crucial in combating this dangerous phenomenon. Employing illegal workers disrupts the social fabric, affects the crime rate, and poses a threat to social activity and legal economic activities in the labour market. It is important to protect the country's security and economic interests by only employing legal workers.
WORKPLACE
Turkish Airlines office in Tehran shut down after employees refuse to wear hijab
Police in Iran shut down the Turkish Airlines office in Tehran after female employees reportedly refused to wear the mandatory headscarf, or hijab. Iranian authorities have previously closed businesses for allowing female employees to forgo wearing the hijab. The incident occurred on the same day Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan called Iran's President-elect Masoud Pezeshkian to congratulate him on his win in Iran's presidential runoff. The Turkish Airlines office is expected to reopen today.
WORKFORCE
Insurance made compulsory for domestic workers in Saudi
The Council of Health Insurance and the Saudi Insurance Authority have implemented a decision to make insurance compulsory for domestic workers registered with an employer if their number exceeds four people. The policy includes primary care, public health, and emergency cases, covering hospitalisation without a deductible rate, as well as treatment in emergency cases for clinics with an unlimited number of visits, vaccinations, and examinations. The decision aims to achieve comprehensive health care, ensure the sustainability of health coverage, and stimulate health insurance companies and healthcare service providers to offer new products and increase job opportunities. According to Iman Al-Tariqi, the official spokesperson of the Council of Health Insurance, the implementation of this decision is part of the efforts to enable all beneficiaries to receive comprehensive care and prevention and to ensure justice, transparency, and excellence in performance for all stakeholders.
Samsung workers continue indefinite strike over pay rise
The National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU) in South Korea has announced that the strike by Samsung workers will continue indefinitely. The union is demanding a 3.5% pay rise to reflect inflation, but management has shown no willingness to negotiate. The strike, which began on Monday, is the largest in Samsung's history, with over 5,000 employees involved. The NSEU has urged more workers to join the strike. Despite the strike, Samsung has stated that it will ensure no disruptions occur in the production lines. The company remains committed to engaging in negotiations with the union. However, the union claims that the strike has already disrupted production on certain chip lines. The NSEU is confident of victory and believes that management will eventually come to the negotiation table.
TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT
Dell, Aramco and Nita collaborate to empower local talent in Saudi
In a collaborative effort, Dell Technologies, Aramco, and the National IT Academy (NITA) have signed an agreement to empower Saudi Arabia's local talent with advanced science and technology skills. The collaboration aims to provide Saudi students with advanced training programmes and certifications to develop a skilled and employable technology talent pool in the Kingdom. The four-month-long programme, ITXcelerate, will equip recent Saudi graduates in computer engineering, computer science, and IT with Dell Proven Professional Certification. It aligns with Saudi Arabia's vision to foster a vibrant tech ecosystem and equip its workforce with the skills necessary to contribute to the nation's technological advancement and economic prosperity. Nabil Al-Nuaim, Senior Vice President, Digital & Information Technology, Aramco, stated, "This agreement underscores our plan to nurture a skilled workforce that will not only contribute to Saudi 2030 Vision but also showcase the nation's prowess on the international tech landscape."
Saudi Arabia completes first phase of vocational verification programme
Saudi Arabia has completed the first phase of its vocational verification programme, which aims to regulate the labour market. The programme, encompassing 128 countries, ensures that workers possess reliable educational credentials and the necessary skills required in the Saudi labour market before their employment in the kingdom. This initiative by the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources is in line with a cabinet decree. The vocational verification programme is a step towards a regulated labour market and ensures skilled workers for employment.
Qatar's Ministry of Social Development and family organises financial awareness training
Qatar's Ministry of Social Development and Family (MSDF) and the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies (DI) have organised the first training sessions of a financial awareness program. The program aims to equip new employees, those about to get married, and debtors with fiscal management tools. The two-day session focuses on conserving resources, crafting saving policies, and rationalising expenditure to achieve financial sustainability. It also aims to propagate the culture of financial awareness among young people in society.
TECHNOLOGY
Governments explore AI chatbots for efficient public service
As government chatbots evolve from basic automated tools to more sophisticated generative artificial intelligence (AI) systems, they promise more efficient public services but also raise concerns about accuracy and reliability. Initiatives like the UK's GOV.UK Chat and Portugal’s Justice Practical Guide illustrate the potential and pitfalls of these advanced systems. While they can handle simple inquiries effectively, complex questions often reveal their limitations, highlighting issues of trust and accuracy. Experts emphasise that while AI can enhance service accessibility, it should not replace human workers, but rather complement them. Accountability remains a crucial challenge, as AI cannot be responsible for its actions, necessitating human oversight in public administration. Estonia offers a contrasting model by using Natural Language Processing (NLP) rather than generative AI. This approach limits errors but also restricts the chatbots’ conversational abilities. Estonia's Bürokratt initiative demonstrates a controlled integration of chatbots, prioritising reliability over conversational depth. 
Goldman Sachs challenges productivity claims made for AI tech
Goldman Sachs has challenged the notion that artificial intelligence (AI) will provide significant productivity boosts to the economy. The bank’s paper states that AI's productivity benefits will be more limited than anticipated, while its power demands will require utility companies to spend almost 40% more in the next three years. MIT economist Daron Acemoglu, who was interviewed for the study, believes that truly transformative changes won't happen quickly and may not occur within the next 10 years. Jim Covello, head of global equity research at Goldman Sachs, believes that AI technology is exceptionally expensive and not designed to solve complex problems. If important use cases for AI don't become more apparent in the next 12-18 months, investor enthusiasm may fade. Meanwhile, the Tony Blair Institute's report on AI's potential in the public sector has already been criticised for basing its argument on answers from Chat GPT.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Qatar's MoL wraps up participation in Healthy Workers for Sustainable Development campaign
Qatar's Ministry of Labour (MoL) has concluded its participation in the Healthy Workers for Sustainable Development campaign, organised by the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Primary Health Care Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Qatar Red Crescent. The campaign aimed to raise awareness among employers and workers about the importance of a safe and healthy working environment. The Ministry is committed to safeguarding workers' health and safety in the workplace and enforcing occupational safety procedures. Saad Rashid Al Nabit, Assistant Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Department at the Ministry of Labour, emphasised the Ministry's commitment to urging employers and private sector companies to provide essential training and qualification for workers. He also stressed the importance of promoting awareness and adherence to safety and health regulations among workers and employers. The Ministry aims to enhance collaboration and build a positive partnership with the National Human Rights Committee to upgrade the work environment and ensure the right of workers to a safe working environment.
SUSTAINABILITY
Qatar participates in Green Development Forum of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
The State of Qatar participated in the Green Development Forum of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Qingdao, China. Qatar's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Subaie, delivered a speech at the forum, emphasising Qatar's commitment to green development and the preservation of the environment. He highlighted Qatar's national development strategy and its focus on economic diversification and environmental sustainability. Qatar, as a leading global supplier of natural gas, aims to play a major role in global green development and the transition to a low-carbon future. Qatar has also launched the National Renewable Energy Strategy and announced the issuance of Green Sukuk, the first of its kind in the region. The Minister met with several international officials to discuss joint efforts in addressing climate challenges and preserving the environment and biodiversity.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION
Diverse teams drive innovation and performance, studies show
Maria Alonso, a seasoned marketing expert and founder of Fortune 206, emphasises the critical importance of diversity in driving business innovation. Citing research from McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group, Alonso points out that companies with greater ethnic and racial diversity not only perform better but also enjoy higher financial returns than their industry averages. She shares insights from her extensive experience, including her role at Starbucks as LATAM senior brand manager, underscoring how diverse teams contribute uniquely across various domains like social media, graphic design, and data analytics to enhance marketing campaigns. Alonso advocates for hiring for trainability and supporting team members from non-traditional backgrounds with personalised training programs, mentorship, and continuous feedback to foster adaptability and engagement within teams.
 


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