Unemployment and those crazy numbers.

I’ve written about unemployment before here and here. The picture is just getting blearier. Saudi men are having trouble finding jobs with an unemployment rate of 10.5% and more than 449,000 open applications for government jobs in 2009. Compare that to 2008 in which the rate was 10% and the files 416,000 . As Abdulaziz Al Owashiq observed this is at a time when the economy is rising and yet the employment rate is going in the opposite direction. Another interesting observation of his is that the majority of those unemployed are those that should be the easiest to employ; 43% of the unemployed are between the ages of 20-24, 44% have at least a BA and 80% are single!

If that’s how bad it is for men can you imagine how tough it is for women? Now the numbers on women are so bad that the government won’t even acknowledge them.

Dr. Mona AlMunajjed in cooperation with Booz & Co did an extensive study on Saudi women unemployment rates and the reasons behind it. The report is in English and worth a read.  An Arabic summary of this was published in local newspapers. The article included the findings that 1000 women PhD holders are unemployed, and it was this that was put as a header and that seemingly offended the government the most. Two weeks later the Ministry of Labour’s spokesperson came out denying that there were any jobless PhD holders and demanding an apology which Booz & Co generously provided. Dr. Adel Al Salah conducted his own investigation and unsurprisingly found that Booz & Co and Dr. AlMunnajjed had nothing to apologize for and that their study was legitimate. But nothing gets the Saudis all prickly like the news that citizens might actually be unhappy, especially women. We’re all queens and sheltered jewels.

Watani is a news organization which for the most part disseminates information to cell phone subscribers within the Kingdom and has only recently started a website. This organization is ultra-conservative and sporadically sends interesting insider information that is rarely published in regular Saudi media. Recently they have sent some of their own crazy numbers. On Tuesday 1st of June they sent a cell phone text reporting that the Ministry of Civil Service received no less than 11 thousand applications with fake male names or just initials that turned out to be sent by Saudi women applying for jobs offered to men only.

When it comes to the reasons behind all these miserable numbers, multifaceted is an understatement. The private sector is not interested in Saudis and it’s hard to blame them. As a business owner, would you rather have imported cheap labor who will literally live for your business in a little room you provide and work day and night, or a Saudi who will demand at least double the pay and half the hours? And then of course the culture does little to help the situation. Hard work is not regarded highly by Saudi society. Young Saudis aspire and look up to heirs who wake up at noon with jobs that consist of spending a couple of hours in a luxurious wood-paneled office signing forms. There’s not much respect for police officers, firemen, nurses or even small business owners. Above all many Saudis suffer from entitlement syndrome; the countless number of times I’ve heard “I’m a Saudi from so and so tribe, I can’t just take any job.” And when it comes to Saudi women, it gets even funnier. Because many will only accept on two conditions, they can only work until noon and they have to be paid as though they have a full-time job. Moreover the environment has to be gender-segregated. So if you are private sector you have to rent two locations or two sets of offices, one for men and one for women, that is if you want to employ women. The only exception is hospitals, clinics and extremely rare and untouchable companies in the major cities.


Filed under Culture, Gender Apartheid, Informative, unemployment

17 responses to “Unemployment and those crazy numbers.

  1. Gump

    Can you give examples of ‘untouchable companies in the major cities’?

  2. Ali

    Untouchables could be major hotels, companies owned by royals and Media/ TV companies..

    We talked about unemployment of Saudi back in 2003. And , I had pointed out the following:

    1. Abolish the Sponsorship System, Let the Government Sponsor all expats – this will reduce illegal workers- thus more jobs.
    2.Provide training facilities BETTER than what is available. Send Batches of Saudi youth for training OUTSIDE and let them create and ADD to what is.
    3. Believe it or not – but! Allowing Direct foriegn investment without many conditions EXCEPT the hiring/ training of a set amount of Saudis will totally change the picture within a few months , if not over night.

    Local businessmen can provide only SO many jobs. Most countries NEED businesses from all over the world to come and employ the people. Allow expatriates to own and run businesses here, with the condition of employing Saudis.. make it the ONLY MAJOR Criteria.

    Instead of so many hassles for expatriates, give them options with taxation. Use that money for projects and training/placement of Saudis. More industries mean more work.

    Also, when foriegners get the option of long term settlement here, bringing families.. they will naturally spend their money here too.. this will open doors for many news small businesses.

    All this is possible WITHOUT actually losing anything IF the processes are well defined and planned.
    There is plenty of land, resources and wealth to reduce unemployment to ZERO!..
    Shame really.

  3. Pingback: Unemployment and those crazy numbers. « Saudiwoman's Weblog | Jobless Bloggers

  4. Jawaher

    I have read and reread your report, and I do agree on the principle. But there is a growing number of young Saudis, men and women , who are prepared to do all sorts of jobs to get a monthly cheque to support their families. It is sad that at this time when we have many educated, motivated, bright and willing young generation, we have nothing to offer them. Future for them is very bleak.

  5. Salaams:

    We have a similar problem in America. Many jobs are taken by non Americans (i.e., tech sector, agriculture, etc.). However, American businesses tell us either:
    1. Americans aren’t smart enough for the tech sector, or
    2. American’s won’t do agriculture jobs.

    Allahu Alim

  6. INAL

    Goodness a country with so many youth, and it’s so ‘anti-youth’ by the numbers that are unemployed- a damn shame.

    Question can the youth organize companies/organization geared for them only? Or is the creation of jobs in the hands of the few? Can a foreign company come in with the expressed desire to train and hire people (Saudi only) that are in the range of 20 to 35?

    No bashing please, they are honest questions and I’d like to know since I have never worked or lived in KSA.

    • Ali

      Legislation for foriegners is so tough that most act through agents, who frankly do not give two hoots about what happens to the youth and who is unemployed.


        And dont give a single hoot about what happens to you as long as they can rip you off.

  7. Ahmad


    I have to comment only one point you mentioned

    2.Provide training facilities BETTER than what is available. Send Batches of Saudi youth for training OUTSIDE and let them create and ADD to what is.

    For above point I tell you that I also work for a very prestigious Saudi Company and in the end I see only Saudis going for Trainings and definitely OUTSIDE and on their return they come with nice pictures not learning. I sorry to say but this is true.

  8. A really interesting post, saudiwoman – thank you.

    At work I come in to daily contact with the Saudi youth you talk about. I am training them for their futures. The wide variation in skills when they arrive is remarkable enough in itself. Those straight out of the government schools have almost nothing in terms of English, mathematical, scientific, historical, geographical or general knowledge or study skills. Just what they spend their time doing in those schools, who knows? One trainee told me that back in the village in Najran he and his friends spent most of their education messing around outside. They passed the exams because their teacher was from the same tribe. These guys are apparently hand-picked as the best, too.

    Trainees who arrive having had at least some higher education are often a lot better equipped, and enthusiastic. Almost without exception, though, hard work of any kind is frowned upon as an option. Wasta is an accepted route up the career ladder, and even though many would complain about it, if his neighbor is going to get ahead that way, shouldn’t he too?

    Before I came here I also worked training many of the young Saudis sent abroad to study. While it is true that some view it as an extended vacation, there were a good number of students who were genuinely trying hard to improve themselves. For the institutions that are involved these education programs are a huge source of income. Where I was, 85% of the long term student enrollment was sponsored by the Saudi government. Of course these places turn a blind eye to weak, underperforming, or lazy students. They like the money too much.

    There is a lot of hope and expectation of the future, and an acknowledgment that things are changing for the better. Unfortunately, though, not too much is going to change without leaving behind some of the hardened attitudes surrounding work and entitlement. Ironically, when an individual’s aspirations are more realistic he may find that he achieves more.

    For the moment, though, you can’t plant new trees in old soil and expect them to bear fruit.

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