Kingdom says aggressive employment drive to be expandedAn aggressive campaign launched by Saudi Arabia last year to tackle festering unemployment has produced nearly 250,000 jobs for nationals in the private sector in the first 10 months of the programme.The number is more than five times the number of jobs created by the world's oil powerhouse in its wealthy private sector over the past five years, the Gulf Kingdom's labour minister Adel Faqih said.
About 195,000 of the jobs over the past 10 months were taken up by Saudi men while the rest went to women, he told the country's appointed parliament (Shura)
"We have managed to create nearly quarter a million jobs for nationals in the private sector over the past 10 months, more than five times the number of jobs created in the previous five years," he said.
Riyadh announced the launching of the job nationalization programme, dubbed Nitaqat (ranges) in mid 2011 in a bid to tackle national unemployment, which was estimated at around 11 per cent at the end of 2010. The level is far higher among women and university graduates, ranging between 20 and 45 per cent.
The programme comes amidst reports that unemployment in Saudi Arabia continued to widen because of the private sector's preference of cheaper foreign labour and the fact that the population is growing faster than the economy.
Officials said the initiative could create more than 400,000 jobs for Saudis every year, adding that the private sector's preference of expatriate labour has left more than one million Saudis jobless.
Besides creating a persistent unemployment problem among Saudis, the private sector's heavy reliance on foreign workers has put pressure on the country's balance of payments given the massive funds transferred by foreigners to their homes, estimated at SR98 billion ($26 billion) in 2010.
Under Nitaqat programme, which was launched on June 11, private sector establishments were given four classifications--excellent and green with high Saudi labour percentage, and red and yellow, with low Saudi labour ratio.
Foreign workers in the first two categories can stay as long as they want while the stay of expatriate workers in the two negative categories will be limited to six years in case the company fails to adjust to Saudization rules.
"We are now preparing an expanded and developed version of Nitaqat to be announced soon....this plan will target qualitative job Saudization as it will focus on educational levels and wages," Faqih said.
"It will also take into consideration each region in the Kingdom, its population and their level of education and qualifications."
Faqih said Saudi women employed by the private sector within Nitaqat over the past 10 months were more than19 times the annual average number of female jobs created over the previous years.
Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, has a population of around 28 million, including about eight million expatriates.
© Emirates 24|7 2012