Saudi pharmacy graduates recount struggle for jobs

Unemployment blues

February 24, 2018

Saudi Gazette report

EXPATRIATES continue to dominate the Kingdom’s pharmaceutical sector. It seems the Ministry of Labor and Social Development is unable to nationalize jobs in the sector while private pharmacies refuse to replace foreign pharmacists with Saudi graduates of pharmacy citing various reasons.

Industry experts have identified major obstacles in the employment of Saudi pharmacists. They include the refusal of pharmacy owners to employ fresh graduates, low salaries, long hours and shift rotations, among others.

Al-Riyadh newspaper interviewed a number of Saudi pharmacy graduates to shed light on their struggle and the problems they encountered in finding jobs since graduating from college.

They all agreed that the only solution to rising unemployment rate among Saudi pharmacists is the enforcement of Article 11 of Law on Pharmaceutical Establishments and Products, which stipulates that only Saudi pharmacists holding a license to practice may work in the field of marketing pharmaceutical preparations. The article says the minister may grant exemption to the nationality condition in the absence of an adequate number of Saudi pharmacists.

Economic experts have warned that unemployment among Saudi pharmacists is rising with some 3,000 of them graduating from pharmacy colleges every year and end up unemployed.

Saudi pharmacists called upon the Ministry of Health to employ more Saudi pharmacists in the state-run hospitals and replace non-Saudi pharmacists in armed forces and military hospitals with Saudis. They also asked the ministry to ban pharmaceutical companies from recruiting non-Saudi pharmacists from abroad and restrict the profession of pharmacist to Saudis only. A pharmacist working in a pharmaceutical company receives SR15,000 in monthly salary.

Saudi pharmacists who talked to Al-Riyadh pointed out hat some mega pharmaceutical companies have begun hiring Saudis only after the authorities required that all stores inside malls should be Saudized and run by Saudis.

The companies employed Saudis in their branches inside malls only but not other branches.

The pharmacists called for requiring big private hospitals to replace non-Saudi pharmacists with Saudis as these hospitals pay high salaries.

Marwa Salim studied pharmacy in Hungary and graduated in June 2016. She was the first Saudi student to obtain a pharmacy degree from Hungary. She passed the test of the Saudi Council of Health Specialties and was issued a license to practice as pharmacist. Although she has applied for a job at many hospitals, polyclinics and pharmacies, she has not been offered a job until now.

Khadija Al-Fifi graduated in pharmacy from the University of Jazan in 2017. She also applied for a job in at least 15 health institutions but without luck.

Amani Salim graduated from the same university with honors and has not been any lucky either.

“Most hospitals reject our applications because we do not have work experience. A large number of the students who graduated in the same year like me continue to be unemployed for the same reason,” Amani said.

Eshaq Al-Hajri, a veteran pharmacist, called for reviewing and revising the Law on Pharmaceutical Establishments and Products because it was issued about 15 years ago. He also called for replacing non-Saudi pharmacists with Saudis in all public and private hospitals based on a clear-cut timeline.

“I believe Saudis have promising opportunities in pharmaceutical and medical supplies companies. The number of non-Saudi pharmacists working in pharmaceutical companies will drop when the authorities require these companies to adopt modern methods of marketing,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has some 9,000 licensed private pharmacies, which employ more 21,500 non-Saudi pharmacists. Statistics indicate that of the 25,119 pharmacists who work under the Health Ministry only 22 percent are Saudis.

Private hospitals employ 1,599 pharmacists while 46 pharmacists work at medical cities and 1,439 in other facilities including factories and warehouses.

About 90 percent of foreign pharmacists are from an African country while 10 percent come from different Asian countries.

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