May 03 2011
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Young expatriates face unemployment crisis
Latest statistics and a report issued by the Central Department of Statistics in Saudi Arabia in 2010 confirmed that the population of Saudi Arabia stands at 27.1 million, of which nearly one third are expatriates; an estimated 8.4 million. This number increased Saudi fears of expatriates seizing job opportunities available on the market. Although many Saudis are using expatriates as an excuse for not finding a job, many expatriates are facing difficulties too in obtaining a job, not to mention the sponsorship transfer problem that comes with it. They, in turn, point the finger of blame on Saudization programs.
Hanadi Ma'moun, an Egyptian pharmacist living in the Kingdom with her parents for 26 years, graduated two years ago but could not find a job.
She added, "I was left with no chance but to work as a volunteer in a private hospital in Jeddah, which is better than staying at home. I was promised employment, but the biggest obstacle I faced was Saudization."
Mohammed Al-Ramahi, a Jordanian employee at a private medical insurance company, was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. After he graduated in 2001, he found a job at a private medical insurance company only after 10 years of unemployment. They promised to give him the job and transfer his sponsorship to the company.
"I agreed with no hesitation to transfer my sponsorship, because it was very difficult to find a job for me as an expatriate. After working for that company for two months, they informed me that due to the Saudization plan, they could not hire me neither as a full timer nor as a part timer. After two months of employment, I was unemployed again."
Karima Khlafallah, a Sudanese woman dentist graduate from a private university in Egypt and living in the Kingdom with her family for 30 years, preferred to work as a math teacher at home over being unemployed. "I couldn't get any opportunity despite the fact that my father is a doctor. I searched for job opportunities in medical centers and hospitals, but with no luck. This forced me to teach mathematics, which pays well," said Karima.
She added, "Many factors affected young expatriates working in Saudi Arabia. Most young expatriates find it difficult to get a job opportunity because of the Saudization plan. They also can't return to their countries and work there, because they have been living here for plenty of years with their parents."
Dr. Mahmoud Maqsoud Khan, a human capital consultant and ex-member of Jeddah Chamber for Commerce and Industries (JCCI)'s human resources committee, said, "There are a large number of jobs available for both Saudis and expatriates, especially after the establishment of many projects, such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, economic cities, airport development projects, and the construction of tower buildings. Such projects require large numbers of workers and employees of all nationalities," he said.
He added, "The Saudization plan affected the hiring of expatriates at a rate of 60 percent. The number of young Saudis ready to enter the labor market is not enough. They could satisfy only 40 percent of the Saudi labor market needs. This number confirms that we need expatriate employees and workers."
The competition in the labor market has become tough, especially with the arrival of a third group of expatriates who come to work in the Kingdom for low salaries, added Khan.
According to Khan, the government restricts some fields for expatriates in order to increase Saudization. Such fields are very popular among Saudis. For example, Saudi girls show interest in joining marketing, while others prefer human resources.
"There is less pressure on other fields, such as medical and engineering sectors. The competition in these sectors is between the 'newcomer expatriates' and expatriates who have been living here for many years," said Khan.
He added: "Unfortunately, there is a lack of communication between young expatriates in Saudi Arabia and private companies. This forced those companies to contract a large number of expatriates living outside the country and bring them into the Kingdom." Khan stressed the importance of hiring expatriates who have lived in the Kingdom for many years.
"It's the JCCI's responsibility to promote expatriates in the Kingdom by arranging meetings and career days for them, especially when they are considered part of this country," said Khan.
© Arab News 2011
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