Saudi Arabia makes debut in global talent ranking

Saudi Arabia secured the 26th spot in the IMD World Talent Rankings, playing to its strengths as an expat destination with low tax benefits, employee security and above-average pay. (Reuters)
Updated 21 November 2017
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Saudi Arabia makes debut in global talent ranking

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has made its debut in a global “talent ranking” — beating almost 30 countries including France, Malaysia and Japan.
The Kingdom took the 26th spot in the IMD World Talent Rankings, playing to its strengths as an expat destination with low tax benefits, employee security and above-average pay.
It also scored highly in terms of educational investment, which now accounts for 8.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) — the highest in the world.
Christos Cabolis, chief economist and head of operations at Switzerland-based IMD, told Arab News: “This represents a good first result for Saudi Arabia. They have chosen to enter the rankings for the first time as they feel their economy is now in a good position. Clearly, Saudi Arabia would like to benchmark and they would like the capacity to compare.”
The annual IMD World Talent Ranking, now in its fourth year, assesses the methods countries use to attract and retain the talent their businesses need to thrive.
The rankings are based on a country’s performance in three main categories; investment and development, appeal, and readiness. These categories assess how countries perform in education, apprenticeships, workplace training, language skills, cost of living, quality of life, remuneration and tax rates. The study draws on an in-depth survey of thousands of executives from 63 different economies, and more than two decades of historical data.
Saudi Arabia performed consistently well in the overall rankings (26th) and the three main categories: Investment and development (26th), Appeal (31st) and Readiness (26th).
“Saudi Arabian investment in education is impressive — setting the groundwork for future homegrown talent,” said Cabolis.
In terms of education investment, Saudi Arabia is “above the mean,” added Cabolis.
The economist said: “Educational investment is definitely key in the Kingdom. They have put a lot of focus on supporting future generations through education.”
Saudi Arabia also has a competitive pupil to teacher ratio, with just 11 pupils to one teacher on average, which helped the Kingdom to climb up the rankings in the “investment” category.
The report noted that the country’s investment weak spots were its low female workforce representation rates and employee training.
In the “Appeal” category, the Kingdom was rated well for foreign highly skilled personnel but lagged on attracting and retaining domestic talent.
In the “Readiness” category, Saudi Arabia performed well for labor force growth and international experience but trailed on skilled labor and finance skills.
Cabolis said that the Kingdom’s recent moves to relax laws such allowing women to drive, would help to lure more talent.
“The new laws and changes have been very much in the international news ... skilled labor will definitely be drawn to the country,” he said.
Elsewhere in the GCC, Qatar and the UAE ranked 22nd and 25th respectively in this year’s World Talent Ranking.
Globally, Europe continues to dominate the rankings, with Switzerland, Denmark, and Belgium as the most competitive countries and Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Sweden and Luxembourg making up the top 10.
Besides Mongolia and Venezuela, which capture the last two positions, the lower spots are dominated by Eastern European countries including Romania, and the Ukraine.


Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

Updated 19 July 2018
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Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

  • Saudi Arabia’s first women-only 10-kilometer cycling race was held in April 2018 at the King Abdullah City for Sports in Jeddah
  • More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members

JEDDAH: Before Saudi Arabia’s women drivers there were Saudi women cyclists. Thousands of women around the Kingdom have taken to two wheels in the past few years, and groups of female cyclists are a common sight on city streets.

Now four young women have taken cycling to a new level by becoming the first Saudi female cycling team to join the Global Biking Initiative (GBI) European tour, an annual seven-day ride that highlights the sport and raises money for a range of charitable causes.

Sisters Fatimah and Yasa Al-Bloushi, Dina Al-Nasser and Anoud Aljuraid — founder members of the HerRide cycling group — joined hundreds of cyclists from all over the world earlier this month when the tour kicked off from Gothenburg in Sweden before heading through Denmark and on to the port of Hamburg in northern Germany.

More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members. 

The dynamic HerRide team shares a passion for adventure, and a love of outdoor activities and sports. Fatimah Al-Bloushi, the team captain, told Arab News that when she started the group in July, 2017, “we were a group of amateur cycling enthusiasts and our idea was to train to be the first Saudi female team to participate in GBI Europe 2018.” 

This year was Fatimah’s second time in the GBI tour. Last year she was the first and only Saudi woman to take part in the event. 

“I want to empower Saudi women and encourage cycling,” she said.

Fatimah also enjoys skydiving, surfing, abseiling and climbing, and is also the first woman member of the Saudi Cycling Federation. In her hometown of Alkhobar, she organizes women’s gatherings twice a week to cycle together along the beachfront. She also volunteers to teach cycling for beginners. 

Like all sports events and tours, training plays a crucial role in preparing for the GBI tour. Team member Anoud Aljuraid, an accomplished hiker and technical climber, met Fatimah two years ago while climbing the Ol Doinyo Lengai, or “Mountain of God,” volcano in Tanzania.

“For me the challenge was sitting on the bike for up to eight hours while riding up to 100 kilometers a day,” Aljuraid said. “It was also hard to maintain a certain speed to reach the next destination or nutrition point on time, but my training helped me get over those challenges.”

Although the number of women cyclists on the streets of Saudi Arabia is growing, challenges remain for those joining the sport.

Team member Dina Al-Nasser lives in Riyadh and enjoys long-distance cycling as well as hiking and boxing. Her biggest challenge during the GBI tour was cycling alongside cars.

“I mostly trained at home, but it’s hard for me to train in areas where men usually train, such as Wadi Hanifa and Ammariyah,” she said. “However, I was able to get over my fear and by the third day on the tour I was riding alongside trucks and didn’t even notice.”

Al-Nasser said that cycling is challenging not only for women in Saudi Arabia but for professional cyclists in general.

“We hope that the streets will be more bike friendly, and that people can adopt the same infrastructure for cyclists that we have seen on the tour — such as special paved paths and traffic lights — here in the Kingdom,” she said. 

“Hopefully, cycling will become a lifestyle in Saudi Arabia and we will see people cycling to work one day.” 

The Saudi HerRide women’s team celebrate a challenging stage finish on the GBI European tour. (Supplied photo)

Despite the challenges, the HerRide team say they are hoping to join the next GBI tour. “It was a great experience to cross three countries by bicycle,” Yasa Al-Bloushi said. “Of course, we got some bruises and had falls here and there, but I look at that as a sign of accomplishment.”

The team members gained valuable skills from watching other riders during the tour. “I learned how to be a part of a team and to look out for each other. It was important to listen to my team-mates and focus on their needs,” said Dina Al-Nasser.

 Fatima Al-Bloushi said that the support of her team made her second tour more special than the first. “We knew each other’s weaknesses from day one and we always had each other’s back. If our energy levels were low, someone would provide nutrition. When our spirits were down, we had music to give us a boost, and when someone was nervous, we reminded each other to have fun,” she said.

“I experienced GBI twice. The first time I went alone and came back with a family of friends. The second time I went with friends and came back with family.”

The woman said the spirit of cooperation among cyclists on the tour was empowering. “What made this experience even more amazing, besides the beautiful scenery, was the quality of people we met,” said Fatima. “If we were struggling, they would pass by with a smile, give you a pat on the back and tell you that you were strong enough to push through — it really did make us feel stronger.”

 In future, the group plans to hire a professional trainer and offer cycling workshops for Saudi women. They also hope long-distance cycling events, such as the GBI, will one day be held in Saudi Arabia. 

“Under Vision 2030, I’m sure there will be a lot of local events for cyclists in the Kingdom, including women,” said Al-Nasser.

The four cyclists have some words of encouragement for Saudi women hoping to fulfil their dreams. “You will always find people who will give you negative comments, but as long as you are doing what you love and are not hurting anyone, just keep going,” said Al-Nasser. 

Fatimah said: “Two years ago I was looking to join a cycling team, but as a woman in Saudi Arabia I was unable to — now things have changed. My advice to all women out there is never say ‘no,’ always say ‘yes’ to opportunities.”