Before Saudizing grocery jobs



I CANNOT hide my enthusiasm toward any Saudization drive carried out by the Labor and Social Development Ministry and other supporting ministries in any sector in the Saudi job market.

Without doubt, the right to work is guaranteed for Saudi citizens as long as they live in their country.

My enthusiasm, however, somehow has slowed down lately. I have previous experience working as a consultant in the Labor Ministry. This experience made me balance my thought about any Saudization drive and look at it from all different angles to see the reflection of the decision on Saudi citizens, whether they are job owners or job seekers.

I believe that the best training in business is not given at universities and colleges, because all those courses are theoretical in nature. The best way to learn business is to get involved in the market and retail business, especially in grocery shops and supplies.

Any decision issued to reinforce the move to involve the Saudi youth in the business sector practically will bring forth many successful stories of young men and women who have ambitions to advance in the field of business and finance, and seize on any opportunity available.

At the same time, other stories will emerge about individual businessmen and family enterprises that went bankrupt after the Saudization move.

First, we have to admit that we have a growing unemployment problem. On the other hand, there are not enough sustainable jobs available in the market.

All the solutions for unemployment in the past were limited to replacing expatriate workers with Saudis. This is a temporary solution that over time will prove ineffective.

Saudi Vision 2030 came to change this economic model and transform the economy into a productive one that is capable of generating sustainable jobs in technology, industry and tourism.

Until the time when we will be able to reap the fruits of Vision 2030, the Labor Ministry has the huge task of finding a solution to unemployment by replacing expatriate workers with Saudis but without affecting the market growth.

This is why I believe total Saudzation of any sector will not achieve its targeted results. Let us take for example the field of grocery shops. Unless we make this sector attractive to Saudis by defining work hours and improving the environment, any effort to Saudize it is bound to fail. We need to Saudize the supply and distribution networks beforehand and curb the phenomenon of grocery shops opening everywhere in an unorganized manner.

Under the current conditions, the grocery sector can only be run profitably by expatriates who can work up to 20 hours a day, something that is not seen in the East or West because there are defined work hours and fixed holidays for everyone.

The citizens are not strangers in their own country. They have social and family responsibilities and they have the right to enjoy life with their family members. At the same time, the citizen is asked to compete with a person who came from a different country where he faced difficult conditions and has nothing to lose socially, and is therefore willing to work long hours in order to make money. It is when he returns home with his money that he lives a normal life with his family.

Before I conclude, I will tell a short story that happened in my life and I am sure happened to many others like me.

The nature of my job requires that I travel between Jeddah and Riyadh for two or three days every week. Since my family is not with me in Riyadh, I tend to work an average of 17 hours a day.

My friends in Riyadh get angry with me for working too long because I take time away from them. The opposite is true when I go back to Jeddah, where my family lives. I see to it that I finish my work hours and go home to spend time with my family.

My message to the Labor Ministry, which is responsible for Saudizing the grocery sector, it that yes, we are for full Saudization of this sector but under conditions that protect our rights and comforts of life as Saudis living in their own country, not under the same work conditions for expatriate workers who live far away from their homes.