In the last three decades, many have reaped the benefits of cheap foreign labour, driven by poverty to accept low salaries and forced to accept jobs others had rejected. How can anyone still believe that the rise of unemployment in countries around the Persian Gulf is not related to foreign labour?
Many observers continue to analyze, generate plans, and solve equations while discussing the importance of work ethics, expertise, and training. They examine every issue except the most crucial, the negative effect of foreign labour and its impact on the rising rate of unemployment amongst Saudi citizens.
As my colleague and economics Professor Ali bin Talal al Jahani continues to repeat, “If Germany had witnessed an influx of foreign workers, no German would have retained his job at a Mercedes- Benz factory. The same situation applies for the United States , where US workers would have certainly been replaced at General Motors plants.” Yet, our dear country continues to act as a reception centre, specializing in importing and employment poverty stricken men and women. We continue to burry our heads in the sand or, rather, in piles of Saudi Riyals, so as not to notice the increasing number of citizens fruitlessly searching for jobs.
Unquestionably, unemployment is, for the main part, an economic problem that requires an economic solution, namely to increase the cost of foreign labour either by putting limits on the number of workers coming into the Kingdom or by increasing customs duty, thereby eliminating the economic incentive of recruiting cheap foreign labour. Only then will the Saudi job market become organized, work ethics commonplace, and training purposeful; unemployment will pack its bag and leave the Kingdom promptly afterwards.
Individuals are unlikely to undergo training when they know that job openings are few and far between, with companies hiring foreign workers for a third of the salary. Classes on company ethics and morality are a waste of time when work opportunities are almost non existent.
Dearest colleague Mohammed Obeid Ghabash, in your comment in Asharq Al Awsat, on 12th July 2005 , you exposed the truth when you wrote, “Would the decisions makers in our countries welcome competitors to their jobs?” There are many experts in administration and international relations who can replace our administrators and diplomats across the Gulf, for a fraction of the money. Would our ministers, diplomats, and high ranking officials accept such an outcome.
To our bureaucrats, I say: Treat citizens as you expect to be treated, or else imagine your jobs going to foreign cheap labour that his highly experienced, well trained, and less greedy. What will you do then?