Khalid Maqbool and Abdullah Al-Husoon
JEDDAH — Over 40 percent of private sector companies might be shut down if they fail to meet their Saudization targets, Adel Fakeih, Minister of Labor, has said.
Big establishments are expected to achieve 30 to 35 percent Saudization while smaller businesses are likely to achieve seven to 10 percent, Fakieh said during a dialogue session at Okaz headquarters here recently.
“When they (the establishments) do this, they will be categorized as green companies, enabling them to take advantage of the ministry’s services,” he said.
Commenting on a new program to create job opportunities for newly-graduated scholarship students, Fakieh said the initiative will allow graduates to register their personal information and qualifications before graduation so that employers can study their data and contact them.
A committee comprising members from the Ministry of Higher Education and the Human Resources Development Fund are supervising the program that is currently in its design phase, Fakieh pointed out.
Madani Alaqi, a former member of the Shoura Council, asked the minister whether his ministry had a solution to unemployment among graduates from local universities who are rejected by some employers and businessmen because they considered them not to be qualified enough.
The minister said some employers complained that if the ministry forced them to hire unqualified Saudi youth on high salaries and train them, it would put a huge financial strain on their businesses.
However, he added young men have complained that some Saudi employers prefer foreign workers to Saudis because they are less expensive to train. These young men claimed employers do not have the right to recruit thousands of foreigners while Saudis remained jobless.
Fakieh added: “We should consider and study this issue based on the opinion of both sides. We should not lay down procedures that affect the growth and development of the private sector and prevent it from competing in global markets. At the same time we should not deprive citizens of their right to get a job with a decent salary.”
When many people look at this study, they do not take into consideration relevant statistics, the minister said. For example, the number of jobseekers registered on the Hafiz unemployment assistance program is less than 200,000, while the number of male jobseekers is reportedly more than six million, he added.
He said: “We always hear the same question over and over again: Why did the ministry allow this huge number of expatriates to come here?”
“I say we don’t have enough Saudi workers who can fill these jobs. We have six million expatriates and 200,000 Saudi jobseekers.
“What we are going to do, which is a real challenge, is to replace 200,000 expatriates with 200,000 Saudi workers.”
He said there was some truth in reports that Saudis have started looking for jobs in Qatar, Bahrain and Dubai because the private sector in the Kingdom prefers expatriate workers. In some cases, the private sector chooses to hire expatriates because they are less costly and more skilled and punctual than Saudis. “The real challenge, as I said, is to make private sector companies comply with the ministry’s regulations and hire more Saudis.”
The minister said unemployment rate in the Kingdom was 10.8 percent, which is low compared to other countries such as Iran.
However, unemployment was not the issue here, he added.
For example, in Spain and Greece, unemployment rates were 25 and 23 percent respectively, but it is impossible to find a company that hires mostly expatriates.
He added: “The private sector should realize that it is not about unemployment.
“What is really important is Saudization and the number of expatriate workers in the private sector.”