GCC firms urged to outsource work to ease Gaza woes

Dubai-based firm Nabbesh urges private sector to outsource more work to ease region's joblessness

Gulf firms can help ease the region’s jobs crisis by outsourcing work to young, talented Palestinians, according to a UAE-based recruitment portal, but more big companies need to take part to drive impact.

Dubai-based Nabbesh has teamed up with Qatar-based nonprofit Silatech to host 300 individual projects this year that can be managed remotely by young Palestinian freelancers. The programme, called Fursati (or ‘my opportunity’), will also train youth in Gaza and the West Bank in applying for such jobs to gain valuable work experience and boost their portfolios.

“I’m calling out to big companies [in the GCC] that can help give us 20 or 30 projects that these guys can deliver, especially with projects such as translation jobs,” said Loulou Khazen Baz, Nabbesh’s founder. “It’s win-win: the [firms] can get work done at extremely affordable rates and, as we’ve screened them, the work is good quality -and you’re creating a job opportunity for someone in Gaza.”

Job opportunities and the chance to engage with global firms are sorely lacking in the territory. Joblessness has reached 43 per cent in Gaza, the highest in the world, according to the World Bank. The situation is particularly dire for young people, with youth unemployment of more than 60 per cent at end-2014.

Fursati takes advantage of the talented skills pool in Palestine. “A large portion of the society is highly educated but is limited to finding employment opportunities in the [Gaza] Strip, due to the blockade, which severely restricts the movement of people and goods,” said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in a statement in May.

The blockade on Gaza, in place since 2007, has almost halved the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the World Bank, which in May warned the territory’s economy was “on the verge of collapse”.

Launched in mid-September, Fursati has connected seven young freelancers to jobs, with 15 projects currently advertised on the portal. But the 15 companies that have joined the campaign so far are regular Nabbesh users – typically SMEs who use the portal to find freelancers in the region for specific jobs. “We need bigger companies that would give us broader job opportunities,” said Nabbesh’s Baz.

The programme focuses on individual projects that can be outsourced quite easily and completed from home, such as translations from English to Arabic, data entry and jobs that involve design and web development.

Fursati also aims to train young Palestinians on the skills needed to thrive in the on-demand economy. The programme has run nine workshops in Gaza to school freelancers in skills such writing a professional CV and cover letter.

Some 150 Palestinian freelancers have been through the workshops and signed up to Nabbesh’s platform to date. Fursati plans to run a further 10 workshops – each with about 20 people – by the end of the year and to expand to the West Bank, according to Baz.

Still, the challenges facing Palestinian youth are vast, ranging from restricted movement to electricity shortages and language barriers.

“Some [young Palestinians] prefer to communicate only in Arabic,” said Baz. “But when we talk to the GCC companies, the jobs are mostly in English or the people hiring only speak English.”

Patience, too, is a virtue that Baz hopes the youth will learn when it comes to job hunting. She hopes to instil that lesson during the workshops and motivate them not to get disheartened by rejections when looking for work.

Silatech, which helps link Arab youth with work or to start their own business, will cover the 12 per cent fee Nabbesh usually charges clients for those on the Fursati programme to ensure participating companies can secure Palestinian freelancers without paying a commission. The portal has also agreed a flat fee of $3 per transaction in transfer charges with global payment service Payoneer, to reduce costs for freelancers when receiving payment.

If successful, the plan is to extend the programme to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where Silatech is active.

Photo credit: Nabbesh