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Saudi reform drive confronts jobs challenge

14 July 2016 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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AFP- The National Transformation Programme (NTP), which sets five-year targets for implementing the Vision, calls for Saudi unemployment to be cut from 11.6 percent to nine percent by 2020. 
More than half of Saudis are under 25 but the International Monetary Fund last year noted “very high and rising” youth unemployment which it said must be tackled urgently.Experts say doing so will be a major challenge, with many Saudis long accustomed to a bloated public sector, a heavily subsidised economy and a lack of incentives to work. More than 6.5 million foreigners were employed last year in the kingdom, whose Saudi population is about 21 million, according to data cited by Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment.

 


Expand opportunities for women 
Expatriates do everything from management to cleaning the streets and waiting on tables, in a society where many locals are reluctant to take jobs they consider menial. Almost twice as many Saudis are employed in the public sector, where hours are shorter and leave longer, than in private firms.By 2020 the government aims to cut its payroll to 40 percent of the budget from 45 percent, while seeking to foster “a culture of high performance” among all workers in the country.
Even in the private sector, some Saudis have jobs only on paper, recruited to help companies win incentives -- such as a greater ability to renew visas -- or avoid sanctions set up as part of the government’s effort to get more nationals employed. Another goal of the NTP is to expand the workforce’s number of women, whose job opportunities were traditionally restricted in a male-dominated, conservative Islamic society.The jobless rate for Saudi women rose slightly last year to 33.8 percent. 
The figure was nearly twice as high for women in their 20s, according to Jadwa. “In our culture it was hard for us to go to work or try to find our own way. It was not allowed,” says Saleema Shaker al-Malki, 30, a Riyadh mother of three who has never had a job.Improved education is a focus of the Vision 2030 plan, which calls for expanded vocational training and “rigorous standards” in basic learning.

 


Transition ‘not easy
A foreign education expert in Saudi Arabia told AFP the reforms will take years. Saudi Arabia’s well-equipped training institutes may “talk the talk” but standards still lag, the expert said.
The HIPF plastics institute is among the most advanced of about 240 schools run by the government’s Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC). Some, like the HIPF, are partnerships between the TVTC and industry firms that run them. 
The TVTC says the approach is unique because students receive a job as well as training, which is conducted in English. “From Day One of training” the newly arrived students, HIPF is fulfilling Vision 2030’s goal of employment, said Khaled al-Ghefaili, the school’s executive director.

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