Despite growing foreign investment and a boom in construction, Palestine still struggles with high unemployment—especially among youth. With one of the Arab World’s highest rates of school completion, thousands of skilled young men and women enter the job market each year. But as labor supply continues to outpace demand, the region’s jobless rate hovers stubbornly around 30 percent.
However, as mobile and web access grow rapidly across the Middle East, new job opportunities are emerging: From call centers to ‘do-it-yourself’ platforms like eLance, outsourced or remote work is providing a pipeline of employment in places where in-person jobs are scarce. With its large numbers of college graduates and strong IT infrastructure, Palestine is uniquely poised to lead this new sector.
Jump-starting the growth is a recent partnership between Souktel and a lab at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Through a new outsourcing-focused component of Souktel’s JobMatch platform, MIT researchers have recruited and hired hundreds of young Palestinians, via cell phone, to test neuroscience software and contribute to research trials. The youth gained job experience and earned income, while the lab gained key data to support its work—in real time, and at low cost.
For the young graduates, mobile alerts about job assignments and wage payments offered a quick and easy way to find work and get paid: Once they signed up via mobile for JobMatch, and created a profile with their location and skill details, they received targeted updates about MIT digital tasks.
“As a student I don’t have time to search the Internet to find job opportunities,” explained 22 year-old Hiba, a Birzeit University undergrad who responded to digital work alerts during her summer break. “As a result, Souktel’s SMS job posts were very helpful for me”. Anas, a recent graduate, shared the same view: “I think what Souktel is doing is one of the few actually-efficient ways to help people get job information,” he added. “I hope to keep getting digital work assignments through the service”.
For the MIT team, the one-touch recruitment solution made hiring hundreds of people a quick, cost-effective option. “Recruiting people…is normally the most difficult part of a research program,” offered Dr. Emile Bruneau, who posted several hundred digital opportunities through the JobMatch platform. “In Palestine, Souktel made this one of the easiest aspects of the research for us. We were able to recruit a large number of young, English-proficient
Palestinians to take part in brief projects over a very short period of time; I don’t think this would have been possible [otherwise]”.
As the digital outsourcing sector expands, Souktel will also continue to increase its focus on mobile-enabled remote work. “Our partnership with MIT has been extremely rewarding,” affirmed Souktel CEO Jacob Korenblum. “It gave our JobMatch users new experience and income, but it also helped showcase Palestinian talent and ability to the US, while bringing US expertise to the Middle East. We’re excited to launch new partnerships this year which will scale up this model”.