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MENA Development Partners

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MENA Development Partners LLC

Developing successful business relationships in the Middle East.

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Doing Business in the Middle East

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Saudi job market and Expat changes - part 1

Posted on May 16, 2013 at 11:51 AM Comments comments (77)
A lot has been in the news lately about the changes happening in the Kingdom as it relates to expat and migrant workers. Some of it positive news, some of it not so positive. Please note that anything I write here is predominately a reflection of different ideas out there in the media. If I do add anything about my personal opinion, I will say so. I am not an expert on either topic, but just want to look at what is happening on both sides of the coin!

The Saudi Ministry of Labor has announced that it will achieve nationalization of 3 million jobs by 2025. One of the main reasons for them making this announcement and placing so much attention on this topic is that they are trying to make it easier for non-government companies to hire more Saudi nationals.

According to an article on 2 April 2013 in the Saudi Gazette, "Unemployment in Saudi Arabia, according to the latest official figures, was 5.5 percent of the total Saudi labor force (15 years and older) in 2012. This means there are at least 300,000 unemployed people in the Kingdom." This unemployment number is much higher amongst the younger citizens. I can tell you one thing that most countries realize is that a young population with unemployed young men often leads to serious problems for the society as a whole. (My opinion.)

One of the contributions to the unemployment issue is that a.) attitude of younger workers for their employers (this is not just a Saudi phenomena). b.) they have grown-up thinking that blue collar or manual labor jobs "belonged to someone else" (ie, migrant workers from predominantly developing nations) and c.) they lack sufficient education and technical skills to do the "more acceptable" white collar jobs.

A recent announcement about the goal of getting rid of unemployment through programs like Hafiz & Nitaqat. Nitaqat as I understand it is the Kingdom’s program for measuring nationalization. Hafiz intended to increase job opportunities for youths with intensive training programs in professions required in the job market. The program pays a monthly allowance of SR 2,000 to unemployed Saudi men and women. However, what I don't believe was foreseen is that many of the unemployed were still not taking new jobs. (This isn't uncommon, look at all the US citizens living off welfare even though they are fully capable of working!)

"Now the Saudi Ministry has added a monitoring program or both Saudi and expat workers. This is to make sure that employees are getting what they are supposed to and the employer is not meeting their employment obligations.

The ministry is also taking steps to evaluate the capabilities of graduates of educational institutions and the suitability of their specializations to cater to the needs of the job market. The ministry will benefit from the information provided by the Nitaqat program to prepare a sufficient number of graduates to replace expatriates in all areas of job specializations.
According to an earlier report, Nitaqat will be instrumental in increasing the percentage of Saudi workers in the private sector from 10 to 50 percent over the next three years." from same article on 2 April 2013 in the Saudi Gazette,

Unemployment is not unique to Saudi, nor are they they only country trying to find solutions to the problem. There is no one easy way to figure this out. We have an entire generation of young people entering into the job market with much different expectations of what work will mean to them. Saudi Arabia, as do all countries, need to figure out what it is that is important to this generation, what is it that makes them different then that of their parents or grandparents. Only then can solutions be evaluated and tailored for the new generation. (Again, just my own thoughts!)

More tomorrow on the controversial expat changes... Stay tuned!

Saudi campaign against domestic violence

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 5:42 PM Comments comments (58)
Photo: King Khalid Foundation

The caption reads: "Some things can't be covered; Fighting women's abuse together."

While I try to keep most of my blog about business issues, occasionally there is something that is so significant that it deserves a few words. Way to go Saudi Arabia! Today the King Khalid Foundation launched a very provocative and very powerful campaign against domestic violence. This is such step forward for the Kingdom. Now does this mean domestic violence will end, no. But at least it acknowledges that it does exist.

However, protecting women and children goes way beyond just starting a campaign. Making sure the issue is really addressed now becomes two-fold. 1.) That the government does set-up the proper channels to make sure that they do help and protect those who are abused. (But please take note, in America and other Western countries, it is commonly claimed & believed that we are stellar in doing this... but believe me, there is nothing stellar about our own systems!!!) and 2.) That women need to SPEAK UP! This will be a huge issue as it goes against the cultural grain of their society as a whole. Many believe that what has been done will be done, so if the cycle is to stop, it is going to mean a lot of change within a culture that has not historically supported women to talk against their husbands or fathers.

We will see how things change and if indeed this is a great step forward for the Saudi women. It is a rocky road ahead of them, but if the change is embraced by the government, Royal family and by the citizens of the Kingdom themselves, it will not be a step forward, it will be a giant leap...Insha'Allah!

Women in Business in the Middle East

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 9:23 PM Comments comments (39)
This particular post makes me a little nervous. As a woman, who has always had a career, I obviously understand how important it is for women to have rights to work, earn money and do whatever needs to be done to support themselves, their children and even sometimes, their husbands. I also respect tradition, culture and above all, religion. In my opinion, there can't be one answer or solution to this very complex issue.

A few weeks ago, the Middle East Excellence Awards Institute honored women in leadership by recognizing a select group of women in business in various business and government organizations who play a distinct role in the regional and global development.These nominees, winners and participants in these kinds of events deserve the highest accolades. Being a woman who has achieved excellence in a region that has a lot of red tape and road blocks for them to get past have done something truly extraordinary.

While some of the Middle Eastern countries educate to the highest level and hence have some of the most capable doctors, business women and even world leaders. There are others in the region where girls receive no education, can barely read & write and are not seen as part of society. Many of these countries that view and treat women in this manner do so in the name of their religion. Why is it that in a region with countries following the same religion can some give women the highest ranks and respect while others put them on the same level as farm animals?

While I may be jumping around here a bit and not following standard writing styles, I guess that is okay when it is a blog expressing my own opinions... but violence against women is NOT something that only happens in the Middle East. It happens everywhere!!!

Clearly this is not an issue that will be easily fixed, nor as I said above is it something that will only have one option as a solution. What he can hopefully do is continue awareness of the issue of women in business in the Middle East (and women's rights in general). Perhaps one solution is that we put more emphasis on the business to start focusing more on women. Even beyond eduction, if businesses start emphasizing the importance of women being part of the business culture, maybe that would be a baby step that could be have a huge impact on women's rights. Just a thought...

I also found this terrific website that I am it isn't getting more attention. I think the UN does more for the world than any other organization. http://www.unwomen.org/