For people who have never been to Saudi Arabia, the fact that we are one of the biggest producers of oil often gives the impression of affluence. And in major tourist attractions around the world, every Saudi tourist is thought to be a member of royalty. That’s why I believe it’s important to show that that privilege and extravagance is only true for a very small and shrinking faction of Saudi society. Some of the rest are well-off as a middle-class. And then we have the majority; people living from paycheck to paycheck or some who can’t find jobs. This is a link to an anonymous blogger who has taken it upon himself/herself to contrast the wealth of our highest-class up against the conditions of the poor and some run-down government facilities such as hospitals and schools.
The growing unemployment rate and the rising numbers of households who cannot make ends meet have been a throbbing headache for those in power. Dr. Al Qosaibi was called in to rescue the government once again as he had with the health sector but even he could not do much when up against the stubborn muttawa ideology. Every common sense proposal he tried to implement was shot down by the dogged fundamentalist.
It is depressing that in a country where there are nine million people brought in on worker contracts, many of whom are low-skill, our own Saudi youth go to waste from joblessness and idleness. Young women not being able to take jobs because they cannot afford a driver to transport them to work or they are told that their job goes against our religion and traditions. Banking jobs are believed to be unblessed by God. Hospital jobs and any other jobs that involve working with men can get in the way of a woman’s marriage prospects and are simply forbidden by many families.
Young men who have to compete in a market where a Saudi’s basic salary could get the employer three men from India, Sri Lanka or the Philippines. I know that some accuse Saudis of being pompous and lazy but I know for a fact that the majority are hardworking and hungry for opportunity. These imported workers are willing to work ten to twelve hour work days and even live at nearby cramped quarters assigned by the employer. And all at a salary that could barely sustain an individual in Saudi Arabia, never mind households. How could a Saudi compete with that?!
To read more about poverty in KSA, here’s a link to a previous post.
18 responses to “Poverty in KSA”
thanx for the link of the blog. i have read a lot about the poverty here, know a lot , and it’s time to see some pictures. thanx again 🙂
I knew there was poverty, but I never imagined it to be só very bad in a country which has such enormous natural resources.
It is easy to spot poverty in KSA if you have been here without asking or talking to anyone. Just get in a taxi and let the driver takes you around for about an hour and you will see the old cars around from the 70s and the 80s (at least here in eastern region). I hope no one comes and say those people still drive these cars because they know they will be vintage cars one day!
Probably sooner than later we will witness many Saudis imigrating to North America like other Arabs.
This is a good post …
I totally agree with you that Dr. Al Qosaibi has been under fire the moment he tried to step in this complicated web of wealth, power and influence rooted in the Saudi business environment.
Anyway, his ministry is still a part of a whole system. A system that we are certainly part of as individuals.
“Every common sense proposal he tried to implement was shot down by the dogged fundamentalist.”
Is that so? I don’t think the so called ‘dogged fundamentalist’ had anything to do with the VISA regulations which had been abused, fought and beaten to death.
The problems lay with the whole society. Many Saudis lack the tiniest bit of sense of social responsibility. Everyone’s running behind wealth and money even if it’s against the interest of the whole society. So it’s not only the fundamentalists…
A little ironic to think that Saudis can’t see themselves compete with the horrible living conditions foreign workers live in and yet themselves are perfectly willing to subject their expats to a life like that.
Perhaps this is a sign for social justice to kick in. One that will improve working conditions for workers. Improve their salaries. And perhaps, over time, more and more Saudis will consider taking on these jobs.
Foreign workers coming into Saudi might be willing slaves. But the country’s social problems are caused by society’s callousness and willingness to be their slavers…
The term slave connotes enforcement when it’s a two way street. These people come here with full knowledge of the living conditions and stay on for years. Contracts are done at ministrial level so the ministries in their home countries agree to what their citizens are being paid in Saudi Arabia. Can you blame businesses and employers (whether Saudis or even Martians)for looking for the best deal? And this is not an issue unique to Saudi Arabia many major companies all over the world take advantage of legal cheap labour.
And similarly, would you blame low-educated workers (be they Martians) for accepting such living conditions for a pay that is comparatively a fortune in their own lands?
While this issue is not unique to the GCC, most countries erect laws to prevent this from happening. Not only does this save local jobs, it also raises salaries. An average truck driver in the US earns around US$35,000/yr. A construction worker, $30,000. Thats what a fresh grad there expects to make.
Now if the US allowed companies to import truck drivers and manpower, they could get away with paying them ~$5000+living a year (what a imported labor makes in KSA). But this would also result in millions of jobs lost locally.
Thus we can blame the government of course, but aren’t they too are influenced by society? A cashier at McDonalds once told me he earns ~SR2,000 a month. Enough to pull a family out of poverty at least. Why do so few Saudis take up this job, or at least the part time positions?
Who says that Saudis don’t take jobs at fast food places and coffee shops? I dare you to find a McDonalds that doesn’t have a Saudi working there. And food for thought; who built the American railway system? Its the governments on both the employer and the employee sides that set the policies. Saudi society, as in average Saudis, have only now just started to think for themselves.
I don’t know about America, but in the Netherlands we have a minimum wage which applies to everybody. So you can’t have people from poorer countries come in and work for less money as the Dutch. They are entitled to the same wages and privileges. Now some people come in illigally and work in secret for less money but in that case the employer would be in for some very hefty penalties.
That’s the kind of system that we should adopt but unfortunately the decision makers also have large stakes in businesses so there’s a huge conflict of interests in how the government is run.
As an expat I am witnessing the change of replacing ‘Imported Assets’ by smart saudi young men including in IT sector.
“legal cheap labour” I believe that phrase is key. What determines wages and working conditions are laws, and their enforcement, but monitoring and very stiff fines. Even if they are slave wages, or slave-like conditions the laws and the societal lack of enforcement of them determine what happens.
North America, ie the US and Canada, have legal minimum wages per hour and it is the same for men and women (circa 1970 in Canada it was different with women making about 10% less than men as minimum wage per hour). Maximum numbers of hours/ week are set with overtime pay (1 1/2- 2 1/2 times regular hourly wage) and fixed upper limits per week. Breaks are fixed (eg 1/2 hr per 4 hrs of work ) and so is vacation pay (eg 4% of total yearly wage), etc. This applies to all legal workers with slight variations, eg farmers, factory workers, office workers, domestic help.
To hire a live in nanny in Canada you must pay minimum wage, overtime, maximum hours per day/week etc according to provincial laws, meet federal labour laws, and in some provinces provide a separate room with locking door.
As our national newspapers informed us a garbage man in Toronto made ~ $26.oo/hr + benefits + the ability to be paid all accumulated sick days not taken at standard wage + free government health care before they got their new contract after striking this summer
When the Nafta agreement was made in the 1980’s minimum wage in Canada was ~ $5/ hr plus major union benefits and free health care, and major safety and pollution regulations; in Mexico it was ~ $5/ day with no benefits or safety/population regulations. Needless to say almost all manufacturing in Canada shut down, the Mexicans providing the cheap labour started moving en masse legally and illegally to the US, and the result is the current status quo of Canada supplying raw materials (at a privileged rate), Mexico supplying the cheap labour (at home and in the US illegally) and the US profiting from the sales, and resales. If the market hadn’t been flooded with Chinese goods the balance had stabilized itself.
Which is only to say that these types of economic agreeements and labour laws do have a major impact and would in Saudi. Real Saudization would seem to require governmental, legal, and societal shifts, which would drive eachother in synergistic fashion.
History repeating itself? 😐 I think so. The thing is it’s not really up to the poor to take action (I hate it when people believe that). They have other things to worry about like finding food for the dinner table and a roof above their heads than fighting for equality and fairness.
Until people start realizing the country is screwing with their heads, it will remain the same.
Reading this, makes me realise that things haven’t changed since I left the Kingdom in 1992. My father was employed by Saudia as an engineer, and he said that most of the Saudis that he worked with were only interested in the managerial jobs – where they didn’t get dirty. Until that attitude changes, the Kingdom is going to be reliant on imported labour, which does the youth no good at all, and just encourages the fundamentalists. 😦 It’s a real shame, because the Kingdom was a wonderful place to grow up (my family was based in the Eastern Province – Al Khobar)
Hi, there. I would really like to know what’s your opinion on Saudi women work as maid.
First Saudi women work as maids http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8181241.stm
This is about saudi maids in Qatar
the wages in saudi arabia are largely set by the market and the only way that saudis will get obs is by competing with the cheap labor. the problem is that most saudi arabians are educated and are considered skilled labor, as opposed to the foreign workers from underdeveloped countries, and thus require skilled jobs. saudi arabia is a third world developing countries and saudi arabia is behind other countries were skilled workers are in high demand to produce sophisticated products. the only way to solve this is to make saudi arabians compete with the cheap labor which is wat i think needs to happen or wait for the economy to grow employ so the demand will meet the supply, which it is but will take a lot of time. considering minimum wage laws are unrealistic and very harmful for saudi arabia as they create further unemployment.