Young Saudis and pilgrim service


Makkah Newspaper

THOSE who follow the services offered to Haj and Umrah pilgrims by various private sector organizations will notice a remarkable rise in the participation of the Saudi youth in rendering such services. This reflects the keenness of young Saudis to serve the guests of God from the moment they arrive in the Kingdom until their departure home.

The increasing number of Saudis working in the pilgrimage service sector was not because of any directives issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, or strict instructions from the Ministry of Haj and Umrah or other government sectors, but because of a personal desire to serve the pilgrims.

Young Saudis have found the Haj service an opportunity to make use of their spare time in a constructive way, build good relationships, expose themselves to different cultures, customs and traditions, and learn foreign languages. It also offers young Saudi men and women a good opportunity to augment their career life and prepare for the future.

It is not rare to see a government employee or a school teacher supervising services or monitoring workers during the Haj season without bothering about what people will think about them. They consider such work as worship. Similarly, we see engineering and medical students working in grocery stores to serve customers during the Haj season. They open stalls to sell tea to pilgrims.

However, the concept of work in the Haj and Umrah sector needs to be changed. It should not be seen as a business sector where employment of Saudis is required to tally the numbers, instead of carrying out the hard work, as part of the Saudization process.

Changing the outlook toward Umrah and Haj service should come from the supervising authorities like the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, which must abolish the Saudization requirement in the sector, because mandatory employment of Saudis may deny this vital sector with qualified manpower required to provide consummate services to the guests of God.

Reserving a percentage of jobs for Saudi workers has its merits and demerits. When Haj transport companies were asked to Saudize a certain percentage of their drivers and automobile mechanics, the General Car Syndicate published advertisements to get qualified Saudis. It also conducted awareness programs, spending huge amounts of money. But only a few Saudis turned up to take the jobs despite the good salaries and incentives toffered.

What we need from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development is that it should not make Saudization a condition for the functioning of any institution or company in the Haj and Umrah sector. It should allow young Saudis to work in the sector with strong passion, because the requirement of Saudization would lead unemployed young men and women to believe that they would receive a monthly salary without making any real effort.

This in turn will lead to accumulation of many young people without work within their institutions. Thus, we will be deprived of the capabilities of these young people who will lose their experience and expertise over time.

I think the Ministry of Labor and Social Development should conduct a study to understand the impact of mandatory Saudization in the private sector, especially in the Haj and Umrah sector. There must be another study about the performance of Saudis during the Haj season in private sector institutions and companies.

I am sure these studies will reveal that young Saudi men and women will be able to achieve the impossible if they have the passion for work. There is no shame if a school manager becomes a bus driver to transport pilgrims or a government employee works as a supervisor of workers if they look at serving pilgrims as a religious and national duty and an opportunity to make use of their free time in a constructive manner.