JEDDAH: Prince Turki Al-Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz has called for elections for membership to the Shoura Council and said there has been a “failure in the Kingdom’s job market that has led to the presence of over eight million non-Saudi workers”.
The Chairman of the King Faisal Institute of Islamic Studies, speaking at the Jeddah Economic Forum Sunday, reviewed the Royal Decrees issued last Friday by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and said they would “help bring about a large boom in the job market over the next 15 years”.
The third session of the forum, entitled “Flourishing Citizenship”, heard the prince express his confidence in the Saudi workforce.
“Flourishing citizenship means high dependence on qualified people of the country to achieve a comprehensive renaissance,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has large human potential.”
Of the presence of over eight million foreign workers in the Kingdom, Prince Turki said:
“There’s no question that that signifies a fault in planning and organization, and it requires more precise policies to achieve balance and secure jobs to be able to take on all young women and men. Official figures show that there are thousands of vacant job posts.”
The prince urged greater “middle-class participation in decision- making”.
“Participation in municipal elections and the election of members of the Shoura Council can be built on a basis of education and the results of the plans of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” he said.
Ghassan Al-Kibsi, a managing partner of McKinsey & Company, meanwhile, warned that Saudis over the next 20 years would not be able to enjoy the luxury afforded them today.
“Global forces are pushing us to reduce our standard of living due to a rise in unemployment in the private sector which suffers from low wages and productivity, promising an uninspiring future,” he said.
He noted that, according to studies, around 90 percent of Saudi employees work in the public sector.
“The sector will only be able to take on around one-and-a-half million in the years ahead,” he said. “The private sector is expected to have around five million employees in the future, and that will require more training and development as well as tangible increases in salary.”
Abu Bakr Baqadir, Deputy Minister of Information and Culture, meanwhile, spoke of a “limited-income middle class” that depends on “individual material resources”.
“The concept of the middle class, in its modern definition, cannot be applied,” he said.
“For societies to aspire to becoming modern they require a package of significant changes, evidenced in their high level of urbanization and their openness to the economic and political cycle in the world. These factors have enabled societies to go beyond the transitional phase and turn their eyes instead to becoming modern societies.”
Saudi society is currently, he said, “a transitional society” that “aspires to be a fundamental player in modern society”.
Baqadir said that the greater part of the population is the 85 percent that lives in urban centers, which he described as the “fundamental core of tomorrow’s society”.
“We have created an urban middle class that will simultaneously spread across the whole country, becoming with stability and wealth a distinctively consumer class. People now aspire to lifestyles that require large financial resources.”
Baqadir lauded the Royal Decrees issued Friday by King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, saying that they would help to “accelerate the permanent establishing of the middle class which we feared might be disappearing.”
“The middle class is the prime mover of society,” he said, and added: “We are witnessing a very significant change in the life of Saudi society.”
– Okaz/Saudi Gazette