Work environment in the private sector


Al-Watan newspaper

THE voice of Saudi employees in the private sector is rising and their pleas are repeated time and again.

A few days ago, a large number of Saudi employees jointly urged the private sector through Twitter to respond positively to the royal decree that granted public servants with allowances to offset the rising cost of living.

Some private companies have already announced cost of living allowances to their employees in response to the royal decree while workers in other firms expect they would follow suit. The hashtag urging the private sector to give the inflation allowance has become the most popular on social media networks.

Now the question is why many companies do not support their employees by granting cost of living allowances, even by handing them a small amount like SR500. Are these private companies running at deficit? I don't think it was because of fiscal deficits. On the other hand, it has to do with the companies' reluctance to accommodate Saudis by giving them a working atmosphere that protects their rights, including salary increases.

Ongoing economic changes in the country demand increased employment of Saudis in the private sector, which needs to develop a work environment that suits the citizens, who consider many things other than a good salary before taking up jobs. They should get the feeling that they are welcome in the private sector, and companies want to employ them to make use of their skills rather than using them as a number to fill the Nitaqat quota.

The hashtag reaffirms the poor condition of the Saudi employees in the private sector, which grew from bad to worse. Instead of becoming a parallel actor to the public sector competing with irresistible terms and advantages to attract Saudi employees, like in China, America and South Korea, we see the working atmosphere in private companies in the Kingdom as the worst forcing citizens to run away from the sector.

Recent reports of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development indicate that the employment rate of Saudis in the private sector dropped by 37 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year, which means most Saudis are reluctant to work for the private sector.

The main reason for this situation is the private sector's failure to create a suitable work environment. Article 77 of the Labor Law is another reason as many companies have misused this article to retrench Saudi employees arbitrarily, without giving valid reasons.

The private sector has also failed to comply with the rules and regulations of the Labor and Social Development Ministry, where a married female Saudi employee is entitled to health insurance for her as well all members of her family, including husband even if he is a government employee. Many companies do not provide health insurance even to the children of their female employees in flagrant violations of the ministry's regulations.

Some people say Saudis are not qualified to work in the private sector. Actually, Saudi Arabia has invested a lot of money and efforts to enhance the technical skills of its citizens, but qualified Saudis who seek jobs in the private sector do not find themselves in a position to compete with foreigners, especially when we compare them with the citizens of some Gulf countries.

Saudi employees who work in the private sector receive low salaries. Their average monthly salary is SR6,500, compared to SR15,500 received by citizens in other Gulf countries. For these reasons, Saudi employees do not prefer to work in the private sector.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Development has a great responsibility to review its strategy of employment in the private sector. It has to set out an executive plan with a timetable and performance indicators. The ministry also should impose strict penalties on anyone who violates its regulations.