Entrepreneurship in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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Employment Quandary: Urgency for Reform

February 18, 2011

What labor market reforms in Saudi Arabia are needed to tackle the pressing youth unemployment problem? John Sfakianakis and the economy analysis team at Banque Saudi Fransi (BSF) argue that “improving the quality of education in a bid to engage youth in the kingdom’s expanding economy has been a top state priority” for years but the recent turmoil in several Arab countries increased attention to the problem. In a related report, featured on the SUSRISblog, Sfakianakis talked with NPR and addressed the question of jobs for Saudi youth in a country where so many positions are filled with expats, “The problem in Saudi Arabia is not that you’re not creating enough jobs.. ..You’re creating enough jobs, but they happen to go to foreigners .. I don’t think it’s sustainable even today. I do agree they should act, because that’s the biggest challenge.” Prince Turki al Faisal, interviewed by NPR, noted, “To me, that is a most incomprehensible anomaly,” referring to the 8 million imported workers. “How, within this 8.5 million of workers here, we can’t find a slot for 2 million Saudis out of work is simply incomprehensible,” said Prince Turki.

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