Jan 25, 2011 23:21
IN a country where 55 percent of the population is under 25, the unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia has been rising at an alarming rate.
According to the Central Department of Statistics, unemployment stood at 10.5 percent in 2009. In addition, the average jobless rate over the ten-year period between 1999 and 2009 was just over 10 percent.
It is no wonder, with figures like these and analysts forecasting a 13.7 percent increase in new university graduates between 2009-2013, that a solution must be found to create and guarantee more jobs for young Saudis.
It is for this reason that the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) not only has been tasked with promoting foreign investment, but also providing employment opportunities for the nation’s next generation.
Among the first projects targeted by SAGIA to increase jobs are the Kingdom’s massive economic cities projects.
According to statistics from SAGIA, the construction of the cities has already created 7.5 million jobs, with a potential for an additional 1.6 million by 2020.
Four of the six cities already earmarked as potential job creators include the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Rabigh, north of Jeddah, expected to create as many as 1 million jobs.
The Prince Abdulaziz bin Musaid Economic City in Hail is projected to create 55,000 new jobs. The Knowledge Economic City in Madinah is to provide 20,000 new jobs and Jazan Economic City in the south of the Kingdom will create 500,000.
Although the construction of the cities is a massive and pioneering endeavor on its own, the cities are also being developed to be state-of-the art “Smart Cities.”
KAEC is currently a working model for the introduction of a telecommunication network that includes voice enabled capabilities, devices, and appliances, data video streaming, and security applications over a converged network providing telephone, internet, data and other systems.
The significance of the Smart Cities project, according to SAGIA Smart Cities director Yahya Hamidaddin, is that they too will be successful in creating jobs for Saudi youth.
“One of the primary goals of the organization and operation of the Smart Cities is to monitor the gap in unemployment and young Saudis,” Hamidaddin said, speaking at a recent ICT forum in Jeddah.
He added that they will work to train young Saudis to compete with, not replace foreign labor, and that the most important issue is to close the gap and improve human resources by driving employment in vital sectors such as industrial services, public services and city management services.
The idea is to integrate as much of the young generation as possible into the local workforce, Hamidaddin said. Foreign companies are also continuing to provide employment opportunities to nationals in Saudi Arabia.
The top FDI employer in Saudi Arabia this year is Mobily. Etisalat Mobily, originally based in the UAE, entered the Saudi market in 2004, becoming the Kingdom’s second licensed telecom provider.
Since, then Mobily has become a 100 percent Saudi-owned company and has been striving to set itself apart as one of the most sought after companies to work for.
The company maintains its already high Saudization ratio, hiring over 600 Saudi youth last year alone, with a policy in place to help their employees grow within the company.
“We pay competitive salaries and offer all of our employees full medical insurance benefits and schooling for some of our employees, but this is not what sets us apart,” Hamed Al-Kharji, Mobily’s chief human resources officer, told Arab News.
“Our distinction comes from how we approach the engagement of our employees by giving them training opportunities twice per year. We empower them with the proper tools and authority to get their job done and excel.”
Al Kharji explained that Mobily also runs a very popular and successful program called “Together Towards a Better Future,” which encourages employees to expand their horizons through education.
“In this program, Mobily pays half the employees’ tuition fees, regardless of whether the employee is sitting for a bachelor’s, master’s or even a doctorate degree, in some cases,” Al-Kharji said.
Al Kharji also said that Mobily partnered with Dale Carnegie almost two years ago in addition to Stephen R. Covey and the RBL Group to create values and leaders for Mobily’s future.
“We also have corporate values in place that governs the relationship between employees and their managers. These values of openness, respect, being energetic, progressive, and contemporary all lead us to achieve and live our sixth value-success,” Al Kharji explained, adding that all of this has created a high performance culture at Mobily.
He also said that each year, in order to find to find new talent, Mobily approaches local universities for trainees from among their graduating students to spend a few months with them.
“We learn from them as part of our culture and share what we have learned with them. Most of these youth find openings at Mobily and continue to contribute to our high performance,” Al-Kharji continued.
To keep the ball rolling as a further initiative to promote Saudization and employment of young Saudis, Mobily has recently launched a training drive to hire young locals who have graduated with their bachelor’s or master’s degree to study inside the Kingdom or abroad at Mobily’s expense, along with a monthly salary.
“Many Saudi youth have applied and we are in the process of choosing these new leaders,” Al Kharji said.
When asked what needs to be done to create jobs for the growing Saudi population and reduce unemployment, Al Kharji said that he believes that training is a top priority on one hand and for young Saudis to have more realistic expectations on the other.
“Unemployed youth should not hold out for more prestigious titles or higher paying jobs. What they need to do is start somewhere, regardless of the pay or the title,” he said.
“There is no dignity in being unemployed and fortunately most of today’s youth understand this as you can see them in every type of job these days, a sign that things can only get better for them.”
He added that on the other end of the spectrum, more companies need to open their doors wide to Saudi youths.
“This is what we have done and will continue to do.”