Technologies such as robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are providing opportunities in many places, while causing significant disruptions in others. The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the automation of many tasks, and created a substantial shift in labour markets worldwide, where new skills will be demanded while others will become obsolete. This document presents a summary of an ESCWA report, where results from the newly developed ESCWA Skills Monitor have been used to analyse whether the type of skills and jobs demanded in the region address the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the new era of economic development. To better relate to the future of work, the analysis reveals whether Arab labour markets are demanding tomorrow’s skills, are gender and youth inclusive, and whether demanded jobs can be linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Looking closely at gender inclusion, the analysis has established that online job postings unintentionally avoid gender bias in their demand for skills, but job advertisements themselves are discriminatory by explicitly mentioning the needed gender for a set of skills that can be done by either women or men. The average AI scoring for the region is around 34 per cent, indicating a low level of AI augmentation for tasks conducted in the region. Moreover, the regional Skills Forest indicates that the Arab region has a core cluster in business administration-related skills and jobs, and is not heavily diversified in science-related fields. If this trend persists, the Arab region may once again be missing the opportunity for a successful structural transformation by sticking to traditional sectors and subsectors where labour substitution may be on the rise.