Since then, King Abdullah made way for women to fill 20% of seats in the unelected Shura Council, a parliament with no formal powers, and Qatar's labour ministry has followed suit just this week, forming a committee to oversee the workforce nationalisation programme in the private sector.
In Saudi Arabia the initiative is named Nitaqat, translated into English as 'ranges' - i.e. a range of opportunities on offer. The programme is designed to address the decline of Saudis in the private sector, but is perceived in some corners as an onerous burden on business owners.
The scheme, established in 2011, rewards companies for compliance but penalises those failing to recruit the required number of nationals.
"When the oil business picked up in the '70s, they dealt with it by employing expatriates and of course all the support industries were run by newcomers," explains Ian Thomas, Regional Director for HRSG Middle East. "That backed them into a corner, because instead of training Saudis they brought in both expertise and cheap labour from outside."
Locals scored jobs in the public sector, which became bloated and then came the issue of lower private sector pay and the stigma surrounding cheap labour.
"It's not just a matter of putting sanctions on employees, notably SMEs, who don't employ Saudis," Thomas tells AMEinfo. "The sanctions include stopping visas for companies bringing in more than a 70% expatriate workforce. The worst problem is an attitudinal one, with a reluctance from young Saudis to do the work."
Competency based performance management
HRSG works with businesses and employees to enable performance management. They establish goals and competencies based on a company's actual requirements and vision. The firm's President, Dr. Suzanne Simpson, was in Dubai this month, following speaking engagements in Saudi Arabia.
"In North America we put a premium on certain kinds of educational backgrounds. The technical trades are not seeing sufficient numbers to meet the needs of the country - so it's fair to say that supply and demand issues exist worldwide in different ways," she explains.
The consulting group puts in place a framework to interpret a company's goals. Individuals then know what they need to do to succeed and how to gain competency for the next step up in their career. Empowerment is the key.
"With empowerment you actually make systems and processes more transparent, so you can see what you need to do get where you want to go," says Simpson.
"[Our system] is based on an individual's competence and development. There's a pact here going on where people take responsibility for their careers but governments and employers put systems and processes in place to make it more obvious and open and based on real job requirements, not just who you know."
"You can see how this would work as part of an Emiratisation, Saudisation or Omanisation programmes because it binds the individual to an organisation and empowers," adds Thomas. "Typically in the Middle East it's a command and control type of set up at a country level, but that is also the leadership style in business, typically. If you can get out of that mindset then you can see it begins to create a cultural shift."
Is talent deficit a barrier to workforce nationalisation?
The issue of talent of course depends on the sector in question.