Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jobs will be aplenty by 2014, but no Saudi takers

Adnan Jaber | Arab News

RIYADH: Major development projects such as the mega economic cities in the Kingdom will require more than 10.8 million workers by the year 2014, creating more job opportunities for Saudis and expatriates.

However, according to a study conducted by the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), only 5.45 million Saudi workers would be ready to take up the new jobs, creating a gap of 5.4 million or 49.8 percent.

The study estimated that Saudi workers make up 12.8 percent of the total work force in the private sector. This will make it difficult for private companies to win government contracts because of restrictions in recruiting foreign manpower.

Despite graduating from technical and vocational centers, many Saudis are not qualified to meet the requirements of the private sector, which prefers experienced workers.

The study proposed a survey of new job requirements, especially for the Kingdom’s mega economic cities, and the training of Saudis to meet these. It also called for a revision of the curricula of educational and training institutions to meet job market requirements.

The study emphasized the importance of improving the productivity of the Saudi work force by establishing specialized national productivity centers and providing incentives for Saudis to achieve this goal.

The study expects the unemployment rate among Saudis will come down from 10.5 percent in 2008 to 7.1 percent in 2014, with the number of unemployed Saudis shrinking to 418,500.

According to the study, this would be structural unemployment as these Saudis would not be qualified to do the jobs done by expatriates.

The study attributed the lack of qualified Saudis to do private jobs to a lack of science and technology graduates. Graduates in engineering, medicine and sciences met only 12.5 percent of the Kingdom’s needs in the last five-year plan.

This situation has forced the Kingdom to depend on foreign workers who constituted about 54.4 percent of the Kingdom’s work force in 2007.

During the past seven years, the study said, Saudis have been engaged in administrative and secretarial jobs in the private sector. Their participation in industrial, agricultural, service and other productive work has been negligible.

Despite their high qualification, due to social and legal restrictions, women accounted for only 8.1 percent of the total Saudi work force.

Many private firms are still unprepared to employ women, irrespective of the state’s directives to expand job opportunities for women. This will further reduce women’s job participation to 6.1 percent by the end of next year.