Ihsan Ali Bu-Hulaiga speaks at the forum
Ihsan Ali Bu-Hulaiga, a former Shourah member and chairman of Joatha Center for Investment, expressed concern Sunday over growing unemployment among Saudi nationals.But he said the productivity
level of Saudi employees should match the standards of advanced economies.
Addressing an Economic Forum at the Council of Saudi Chambers in Riyadh, Bu-Hulaiga also said the number of jobless Saudi nationals was huge and the situation was alarming.
Abdullah Al-Mubti, president of the council, opened the meeting titled “retail sector and its role in jobs localizations.” Fahad Saleh Al-Sultan, CSC secretary-general, presided.
Top officials from the Labor Ministry and the council and leading businessmen including Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, chairman of Zamil Group, took part in the event.
Bu-Hulaiga cited official statistics to highlight the seriousness of unemployment issues and said as many as 10.5 percent of the Saudi nationals were unemployed.
“It is a major challenge that Saudi Arabia faces at present,” he said, pointing to the market’s heavy reliance on foreign labor.
He quoted official figures which show that 7,241,368 expatriates were working in Saudi Arabia in 2009. Of this, he said 1,860,126 were in retail and wholesale trade. But these are old figures and the number could be two million now, he pointed out.
According to available data, he said the volume of work force in Saudi Arabia in 2009 was more than 8.1 million of which only 15 percent were Saudi nationals.
He cited low productivity, lack of effective information systems to monitor work performance and weak communication channels between supply and demand as key reasons for Saudi workers taking a lower share of the labor market.
Referring to strategic solutions, Bu-Hulaiga called for a comprehensive system to ensure that there is no mismatch between supply and demand in the workforce.
He also said that the productivity level of Saudi employees should conform to the standards of advanced economies.
Saad Al-Ajlan, board member of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the media had presented the unemployment problem in an emotional and exaggerated manner.
“Businessmen and private sectors are always victims in this process,” he said.
He supported Saudi women’s right to work but called for a review of the working environment. “Otherwise, someone will not allow his wife or sister to work until midnight.”
Ahmad Al-Humaidan, undersecretary for Labor Affairs at the Labor Ministry, said the labor law protects the interests of all parties.
“We must be realistic. While we believe that there are shortcomings, we also should know that our market can be described as any other Asian market, manned by foreigners,” he said, adding that there are some negative attitudes in this issue and corrective measures are under way.”
Other participants suggested that authorities should raise the recruitment fees of foreigners.