Riyadh needs fresh approach to employment

08 August 2011

The aspirations of Saudi youth must be changed first to tackle unemployment in the kingdom

As Saudi Arabia’s population defies age and continues to grow younger, Riyadh acknowledges that finding employment opportunities for them is important.

Anyone who has been to the kingdom knows that unlike Western countries it is rare to find young Saudi students supplementing their grants with part-time jobs in restaurants or retail outlets. 

Youngsters tend to have a clear image in their minds about what type of job they want and it is unlikely to involve working in coffee shops or stacking shelves in supermarkets.

There is a concerted effort to increase local participation in Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas sector

While the high aspirations of young people are admirable, there is no denying that this leads to problems in filling jobs that some locals may view as low status.

In the kingdom’s oil and gas sector, there are some subtle differences to this, but the same underlying truth exists. Most young Saudi nationals aspire to work for the two hydrocarbons majors: Saudi Aramco and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic). 

While Aramco and Sabic are full of college graduates and engineers, other companies operating in the sector struggle to raise their national workforce above the mandatory 10 per cent. Most firms complain that local graduates view them as a stepping stone to securing a job with one of the big two. This usually comes after the smaller entity has invested heavily in training and job orientation exercises.

The situation is tricky because no one can blame employees for aspiring to work for Aramco or Sabic.

There is no denying that there is a concerted effort to increase local participation in the kingdom’s most important industry, but a more realistic plan to attract and retain young Saudi nationals could prove more effective.

A rule reimbursing training costs would be a good place to start, as well as a public relations exercise to convince young people that the world does not end at Aramco or Sabic.

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