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MENA Development Partners

MENA Development Partners LLC

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Saudi job market and Expat changes - part 1

Posted on May 16, 2013 at 11:51 AM
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!

Categories: hafiz saudi program, Nitaqat, Saudi business, Unemployment in Saudi Arabia, women in businss

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