May 11 2011
|more articles from|
It is refreshing to hear Labor Minister Adel Fakieh stating a few home truths about Saudization -- that the number of unemployed is probably higher than the official figures, that the number of expatriates in the Kingdom is in fact growing at double the Saudi population growth rate and that, so far, Saudization had not worked.
Saudization is crucial to the well-being of the country. Jobs have to be found to meet the aspirations of the growing population. If they are not, the consequences could be dire.
The harsh truth is that Saudization has been an abject failure. Despite two decades of government campaigns, companies in the private sector continue to employ foreigners rather than Saudis -- indeed do so in ever increasing numbers.
There is also the issue of the lack of appeal of certain jobs. Few Saudis see themselves as plumbers or electricians and certainly not street cleaners or waiters.
The latest campaign may make some difference with its threat not to renew iqamas of expatriate employees in companies that fail to Saudize. But on past experience, that is questionable. There have been previous attempts to crack down on firms not employing sufficient numbers of Saudis -- to almost no effect. Wielding the stick does not work when companies know they can find ways around the rules.
Over the next 20 years, it is estimated that there will be between 300,000- 400,000 extra Saudis looking to start their working life every year. It is unfeasible that such a number of new jobs can be created annually. Jobs held by expatriates are the obvious answer.
Threats alone will not work. It has to be in companies' interests to employ more Saudis. The financial and contractual advantages in employing expatriates over Saudis need to be eliminated. The work ethic needs to be changed.
The authorities cannot be expected to fix work ethics but there is a lot they can do. There is a minimum wage in the government sector. If it were introduced into the private sector, for Saudis and expatriates alike, expatriates would no longer be able to undercut Saudis. That would probably do more to increase the number of Saudis in employment than any amount of stick wielding.
© Arab News 2011
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.