Manila, Riyadh bilateral ties at their best

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Updated 12 June 2013
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Manila, Riyadh bilateral ties at their best

THE Philippines and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong bilateral ties as the Filipinos in the Kingdom and other countries celebrate their 115th Independence Day anniversary.
“As we mark our Independence Day anniversary, Philippine-Saudi relations are at their best since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries,” Ambassador Ezzedin H. Tago told Arab News.
The two countries have good relations in all areas including diplomatic, economic, cultural and education.
At present, there are some 674,000 Filipinos working in the Kingdom, according to the Saudi Ministry of Interior. Many of them are skilled workers or professionals in business and industry.
The Philippines and Saudi Arabia have just signed a bilateral labor agreement involving Filipino household service workers (HSW). Such accord is deemed beneficial to both countries.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz visited the Kingdom to sign the agreement on May 19 with
Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Mufarrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani, who signed on behalf of Labor Minister Adel Fakeih.
The agreement was the first for the Kingdom with a manpower-supplying country. It sets the rights and obligations of the employee and employers as well as the recruitment agencies from both countries.
Amb. Tago had earlier met with Saudi Labor Minister Adel Fakeih in March this year and they discussed the state of labor relations.
He conveyed the Philippine government's appreciation of the excellent support and hospitality extended to all Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia.
Fakeih said Filipinos are among the most peaceful and least problematic communities in the Kingdom while Amb. Tago noted “many Filipinos have made Saudi Arabia their second home and have been working in the Kingdom for years.”
On March 23, Amb. Tago met with Riyadh Gov. Prince Khaled bin Bandar, who too lauded Filipino expatriates for their well-earned reputation as efficient workers. Riyadh Deputy Gov. Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz was present during the meeting.
“For decades, the Saudi people have known Filipinos who have contributed to the national development of the Kingdom. They have shown respect for the culture and laws of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Amb. Tago thanked the Riyadh governor and his deputy for “the harmonious relations between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia and for the excellent treatment extended to Filipinos...”
The ambassador also thanked Prince Khaled bin Bandar for the humanitarian consideration extended to the irritant Filipinos in the Riyadh region and the regular clemency granted to the detained Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
The Kingdom has been assisting the Philippines by providing loans for the funding of three major projects in key provinces. The Saudi government has allocated $ 40,000 as financial assistance for various agencies helping in the Mindanao peace program. Last year, the Saudi government donated funds to build some 10,000 new houses for the victims of typhoon Pablo in Mindanao.
The Filipino envoy also said that on the political front, the bilateral ties are stable.
The Kingdom has supported Phillipine candidature in the UN and other international organisations
In February this year, Shoura Council Chairman Abdullah Al-Sheikh joined high-level Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) conference in Manila.
“The high-level participation of Dr. Al-Sheikh reflects our strong bilateral relations as well as Saudi Arabia's commitment to fight corruption, just like the Philippines,” Tago said.
Filipinos are studying Arabic, Islamic law and theology in the Kingdom. A university in Riyadh is offering scholarship to its Filipino staff. In the cultural sector, thousands of Filipino pilgrims have been traveling to the Kingdom to perform Haj and umrah. Eight thousand Filipino pilgrims will perform Haj this year, up from 6,000 last year.
In trade, Saudi Arabia ranked 10th as the Philippines' trading partner in 2012, 31st as export market (up four notches in 2011, when it was 35th as export market) and 8th as import supplier.
During the same period, Saudi Arabia both ranked first as the Philippines' trading partner and import supplier, and ranked second as export market in the Middle East.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) infused a $ 200-million capital in 2007 in a project in Makati City, which also includes residential units. The 280-room Fairmont Hotel, a 32-suite Raffles Hotel and 237-room Raffles-branded private residences in Makati has been formally opened.
Filipinos have also invested in the Kingdom in cargo forwarding, restaurants, supermarket, among many others.


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”