Saudi Arabia, Japan pledge to strengthen bilateral ties

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King Salman is received by Japan’s Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace where he was conferred the Daisy High Medal, in Tokyo on Tuesday. (SPA photos)
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King Salman poses with the Saudi and Japanese delegation to the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum in Tokyo on Tuesday. (AN Photo)
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Updated 14 March 2017
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Saudi Arabia, Japan pledge to strengthen bilateral ties

RIYADH: King Salman was conferred with Japan’s Daisy High Medal by Japanese Emperor Akihito on Tuesday in appreciation of his role as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.
The Japanese emperor presented the medal to the Saudi king during a reception hosted in his honor at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, SPA reported.
In his vote of thanks the king through an interpreter told the emperor that he is glad to meet him and visit Japan, to which he called his “second home.”
Moreover, on the third day of the fourth leg of a seven-nation Asian tour, the king attended the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030 business forum aimed at strengthen bilateral ties.
The king was received at the forum by Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Fakeih and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko.
The forum, addressed by Chairman of the Japanese Business Federation Sadayuki Sakakibara, explored economic and investment cooperation between the Kingdom and Japan.
Sakakibara stressed the importance of the Kingdom’s economic role for Japan and the keenness of the Japanese business sector toward the achievement of the strategic economic and developmental objectives of the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030 that aims to bolster bilateral cooperation.
At the end of the forum, a film on the history of economic relations between the Kingdom and Japan was shown.
Also on Tuesday, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for cooperation in the areas of work and development of human resources.
The MoU was signed on the sideline of the tour by Minister of Labor and Social Development Ali bin Nasser Al-Ghafis and Japanese Minister of Health, Labor and Social Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki.
The Ministry of Education also signed with its Japanese counterpart an executive program agreement for scientific cooperation. It was signed Salim bin Mohammed Al-Malik, adviser and general supervisor of General Department for International Cooperation, and Japanese Vice Minister Komatsu Shinjiro.
The Ministry of Health also signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare that seeks to establish cooperation on health issues between the two countries. It was signed by Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabeeah and his Japanese counterpart Yasuhisa Shiozaki.
Earlier, an MoU was signed by the National Industrial Cluster Development Program (NICDP) and the Toyota Motor Corporation for the feasibility study of an industrial project to produce vehicles and parts in the Kingdom.
The study would take into account the evaluation of development of a local supply base using materials produced by major Saudi companies including SABIC, Maaden, Petro Rabigh.
It further aims to enhance the development and attraction of a Saudi workforce and put in place the adequate training programs.
Abdul Latif Jameel, as a local distributor for Toyota, will be also taking part in the joint feasibility study.
Toyota remains the leader in Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) car markets with more than 500,000 units sold in GCC in 2016, according to SPA.

 


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.”