Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Special Report: The Saudi Workforce | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Al Ihsaa, Asharq Al-Awsat-A study conducted by the Ministry of Planning tackled the issue of coordination between the output of educational and training institutions on one hand and the requirements of the work market on the other hand. The study has revealed one of the major problems facing the job sector in Saudi Arabia is the contribution of women. This is in addition to other issues such as job market indicators, foreign labor and the absence of professional guidance for graduates.

The study has also revealed that despite the minimalist efforts that have been made for the higher education of women (women make up 52% of bachelor degree graduates), the entry of women to the work force has been noticeable until recently. Female participation in the work force has varied between 5.5% and 5.8 % out of the total number of Saudi women of working age. This figure is considered a poor percentage in comparison to the international female workforce, which on average ranges between 14% and 40%.

Coordination and the demand structure

The study emphasizes the absence of representative frameworks for job market observation. There is also a major lack of information regarding changes in the demand structure for foreign labor. Due to the restructure of the national economy, these changes cause a relapse in the market apparatus to be able to achieve the necessary coordination between varied foreign labor on one hand and changes within the demand structure on the other hand.

The study mainly depended on statistics provided by governmental bodies concerned with the Saudi job market, education and training systems. The study has also based itself on the consecutive five-year development plan reports covering the current Saudi job market status, its goals, its policies, its strategies and its cases. This is in addition to papers and recommendations from seminars, national and regional conferences that are concerned with employment and education.

Youth category

According to the study conducted in 2001, the number of Saudis under15 years of age represented 45.2% of the population, which was considered a large number compared to their counterparts in other parts of the world. In developing countries the number reaches 35% and 20% in developed countries. According to this study, the increase of the population below working age will lead to an increase in the number of women aged between 15 and 44 years old during this decade. Accordingly, the youth division will engulf the Saudi age pyramid structure. This category is followed by that of 15-65 year olds, which represents the work force of the Saudi community, and which reached a percentage of 51% of the population as reported in 2000. This percentage was considered low compared to its equivalent in developed countries reaching 65.8%. As for the over 65 and above age group, this made up fewer than 3.7% of the total population. The study has also noted that the annual growth rate of the Saudi Arabian population reaches 3.4%, whereas the same rate in the United States and Canada reaches a mere 0.8% and 1.5% in Egypt.

The increase of the workforce

The study further mentioned that the work force in Saudi Arabia in 1995 reached around 6.6 million laborers compared to 7.2 million laborers in 2000, with an annual growth rate of 1.9%. During that period, participation in the Saudi workforce rose from 40% to 46%. A substantial percentage of the work force is allocated in the governmental sector, with figures showing 78.5% in 2000 and 40.2% in the private sector of the same year. The study has become aware that these percentages indicate a deficiency in the job market, a fact that requires the encouragement of new policies in order to contain the largest possible amount of the national workforce. The study has also noted that the public service sector has accounted for the largest percentage of the residing work force reaching 44%, followed by technical and scientific professions reaching 15% after which the percentage of those in journalism reaches 13%, whereas production, construction and transportation professions have accounted for 11%.

The report of 2000 shows that non-Saudi labor is mainly concentrated in the production, construction and transportation professions accounting for 46%, followed by jobs within the public service which account for 18% and finally the technical and scientific professions which accounted for 16%.

The study looked at the number of those within the job market who went to university and achieved science-related degrees, finding that 19% of foreign labor has achieved either a diploma after high school or higher degrees. Whereas the percentage of the domestic work force holding higher educational degrees represents 29% of the total domestic work force and 13% of the workforce as a whole. This indicates that the foreign workforce holding higher educational degrees represents 10%, which indicates the fact that higher education institutions must supply an equivalent national substitution in order to provide the local market with higher degree holders, especially in the applied scientific specializations compared to academic specializations. Male graduates acquiring the bachelor degree from the academic field faculties represented 82%, whereas female graduates represent 94% of total graduates in ”97-”98. Male students of postgraduate studies represented 84%, compared to their female counterparts who represented a percentage of 86.

Governmental Sector Reduction

The study has also reported that the governmental sector has reached a stage of decline in employment during the last three decades and has not been able to employ any additional work force. This has resulted in the decline of job opportunities in the governmental sector, which also resulted in the increase of unemployment accompanied by a rise in the number of graduates from universities and training centers. The seventh developmental plan has estimated the number of graduates from Saudi universities and training centers introduced into the job market at around 760,000 with graduates representing around 93% of the new comers to the Saudi job market. The report has also illustrated that the number of non-Saudi laborers working in the private sector has drastically risen from 20% to 60%, while the non-Saudi labor work force in the governmental sector has declined from 26.5% to 21.5% between 1971 and 2000, concluding that the non-Saudi workforce has mounted from 21% to 54.5% in the same period. The study has proposed some methods to develop the job market including implementing recruitment offices’ task, creating a unified network for all recruitment offices, categorizing jobs and illustrating their descriptions and requirements.

The study has proposed some recommendations such as focusing upon the direction that students want to take in the pre-university period, introducing professional education and guidance programs in the early stages of primary education to initiate a professional sense for students. This is on the condition that the Ministry of Education would create efficient programs to ensure these goals, also linking educational activities in schools to the job market. The study has also recommended spreading professional and technical education at the high school stage, rehabilitating graduates of outdated specializations, adopting modern educational curriculums in higher education such as E-learning, remote education, partial enrollment and evening education in order to speed up the coordination between the job market and enhancing the quality of the output.