JEDDAH: DIANA AL-JASSEM
Published — Thursday 1 August 2013
Last update 12 August 2013 10:27 am
Many Saudis and expatriates are not optimistic about their employment prospects this year, despite a survey by a recruitment company that firms are looking for workers.
The Middle East Jobs Index Survey 2013 by Bayt.com was conducted to gauge perceptions of job availability and hiring, identify trends and provide an understanding of the key skill sets and qualifications required in the Middle East job market.
This is the first index of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The survey was completed in January and confirmed that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the two top job markets in MENA.
The report found that there is expected to be a 22 and 24 percent growth in the demand for business and engineering graduates and postgraduates respectively this year.
However, many qualified Saudis are not confident that they will find jobs in the domestic market.
Saudis claim that expatriates dominate the market and will continue to get the high-paying jobs. In contrast, expatriates complain that they are unlikely to find work because of the Kingdom’s Saudization strategy and new labor laws.
Abdulrahman Al-Malik, a Saudi entrepreneur working in the auto parts sector, said that even though the country has a huge job market, various factors would make it difficult for Saudis to find work.
“I struggled to find work when I graduated from engineering college at King Abdulaziz University. After searching for two years, I found a job with a very famous construction group. I suffered there because I discovered that my certificate was not enough, the expatriate engineers were performing much better than me. I was not lazy but I found that what I studied at the university was nothing compared to the expats,” he said.
“I am not optimistic about the recent survey that says more job opportunities will be available in the Kingdom. Even when there are many opportunities, there are also many factors that make it hard for young Saudis to find work.”
Lujain Fuad, a Syrian business development officer at a private construction company, said that even with many jobs available, expatriates are likely to struggle because of Saudization, low wages and the labor laws.
“For years Saudi Arabia attracted foreigners who dominated the market and received high salaries. The situation has changed recently because the new Saudi generation is well educated, independent and committed,” she said.
“I don’t expect a better situation for expats because the new labor laws are restricting opportunities and fees are increasing the cost of expatriate workers.”
Fuad said the new tax has seen many companies pay expatriates less. “Most companies are paying lower wages and claiming that they have to pay high fees,” she said.
The survey found that multinational companies are likely to increase hiring by 62 percent in 2013, but Saudis claim that many of these companies are more likely to hire expatriates.
“We can’t depend on the high demand for employees from multinational companies because these companies prefer to hire expats,” said Khaled Al-Sha’er, a Saudi executive at a private insurance company. “When they do offer jobs to nationals, it’s almost always low-paying ones such as sales representative, secretary, security guard or driver.”