Stop hiring expats in private jobs

February 20, 2018
Stop hiring expats in private jobs

Hala Al-Qahtani

Al-Watan newspaper

NATIONALIZATION of jobs is a global term and program which has been implemented by many countries around the world. Middle Eastern and Gulf countries also try to apply the same system to solve unemployment among its citizens.

Every country aspires to reach the stage of sufficiency in human resources in order to extend most of the services and works required to strengthen the economy. Since the time of economic crisis, the world has been trying to reduce expenditure and develop local labor.

We can see a large number of foreign workers in Gulf countries. We don’t see this in Europe and America where only a few number of jobs are occupied by foreigners and immigrants. In the US, for example, foreigners such as Latinos, Africans and Arabs work as taxi drivers and municipal workers. They are also employed for road and house maintenance, hotel and restaurant services, shops, and mobile food carts.

These countries employ other nationals considering their educational and scientific knowledge. The US government gives citizenship to scientists and researchers and tries to keep them on their soil to benefit from their knowledge. They include Arabs, Saudis and other GCC nationals.

The United States can do it because of its size and the "American Dream" program. This does not mean the same can be successfully applied in Arab and Gulf countries, because of geographical and other differences. I believe that those who have migrated from their countries should have stayed back to make them another America and Europe.

No matter how much a person is Westernized and gone away from his country, there will not be any paradise for him on earth other than his homeland. A nation can only be built by its own people. Even if the migrants believe that they have contributed or participated in the building of the country they live in, by the passage of time people will forget endeavors for nation-building and they will not get any credit for their contributions.

So I don’t think there is any need for making emotional justifications to keep a huge number of expatriates in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. The boom is over and has become part of history. The Kingdom’s population has grown from 6 million to 32 million.

Preliminary numbers issued by the General Authority for Statistics last month indicated that the Kingdom’s population has reached 32.6 million, with an increase of 870,000 compared with the figure issued at the end of 2016. The number of Saudis was 20.4 million and non-Saudis 12.2 million.

According to the latest statistics, the number of male and female labor force in the Kingdom stood at 13.5 million including 5.8 million Saudis and 7.7 expatriates. The number of unemployed Saudis has reached 786,511 and job-seekers 1.321 million, bringing the country’s unemployment rate to12.8%. This means there are more than 3 million Saudis without jobs.

After years of observing the performance of the Ministry of Labor, we have found that the merger of the social affairs agency did not serve the ministry at all. On the other hand, it has doubled the ministry’s burden and negatively affected its overall performance.

The presence of close to 8 million foreign workers, compared to 5.8 million Saudi workers, clearly shows that there is something wrong in the system. This has created many challenges and exposed many false claims regarding employment of Saudis.

Some Saudis have taken jobs in the market, which were previously monopolized by expatriates. The Saudization program also unveiled the fact that the Saudis are unable to compete with expats at places of work because of unfair competition between them.

This has angered many Saudi graduates because they find it difficult to get employed in suitable positions that cope with their specializations. At the same time, there are officials who wanted to push these Saudis to join the market and trade, and give up their dream of having a good job.

Nearly 8 million expatriate workers, who still retain their jobs in the public and private sectors, pose unfair competition to three million Saudis who look for jobs. As the statistics authority expects an increase in the number of expatriate workers this year, I believe that there is only one strategic solution to cut unemployment rate in the Kingdom.

That solution is to stop this expansion of foreign workers in the private sector. Companies and establishments must activate the decision to limit all professions related to recruitment and human resource development to Saudis, directly or indirectly.

This decision first appeared in the form of a beautiful infographic in 2016 on the ministry’s portal “Together we take the decision,” urging interested parties, employers and establishments in the private sector to participate in the discussion to give their opinion on improving the decision.

We don’t know what happened to that decision later as the ministry did not take any action to implement it. On the other hand, it closed that page so quickly that we did not even get an opportunity to protest and wonder who obstructed its implementation.

I would like to emphasize the need to implement that decision and develop a system whereby all new appointments are made on the basis of national identity. The ministry should closely monitor positions related to employment and human resource at companies and establishments.

An automatic system must be evolved that such appointments should get the endorsement of the Interior Ministry. If we fail to do so we’ll continue to fight for jobs, especially after the entry of new investment companies that come to implement vital projects in the country.

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