We aren’t a nation of lazy, spoiled brats!

We aren’t a nation of lazy, spoiled brats!

No Saudi takers for 1,947 jobs at 44 companies screamed the rather sensational headline in this newspaper a few days ago. Really? I felt surprised as I read the story, which said that only 811 Saudis had been hired at the three-day jobs fair run by the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at which leading local companies offered jobs with salaries ranging from SR5,000 to SR15,000 a month, two days off a week, and medical insurance. For sure, I thought, the two-day weekend should have been a clincher for many young Saudis looking for their first job, as this was long a complaint they had against the private sector, which until recently only offered one and a half days off a week versus the two days off which government employees have enjoyed for decades.
I posted the story to my Facebook wall and a Saudi friend of mine soon commented below it that several of her friends, all highly qualified Saudis, had attended the above-mentioned jobs fair and had walked away with no new job offers. “Sounds like propaganda to me,” she said. And I understood exactly what she meant. The story fit nicely into all of the negative stereotypes that some foreigners have of Saudis: That we are lazy, not motivated, good-for-nothing bums, who would rather sit at home than hustle in the workplace. And judging by the comments left by readers below the article on the Arab News website that was exactly what they thought. One said he was surprised they had even found 811 Saudis willing to work; another claimed that 95 percent of Saudis did not like to work, and the most extreme of them suggested that we Saudis just hand over our country to be run by foreigners! Now I know that online comments are full of hyperbole and tend to attract trolls that are out to shock and annoy the broadest range of people by their vile and stupid remarks. Even so, it was sad to read such broadly disparaging remarks about Saudis, especially when I know many Saudis who work extremely hard and are doing their best to improve themselves and their country. It is unfortunate that too many foreigners base their sweeping generalizations of all Saudis on a few bad apples that they encounter in their daily lives. I too have experienced working with some lazy Saudis, but I have also worked with many more talented and hardworking ones, and I have seen how the attitudes of young Saudis to work is changing and has been changing over the past 20 years, and for the better I might add.
It is true that for many decades Saudis tended to favor employment in the public sector because of the job security government jobs provided and the better salaries. But nowadays, the public sector has become bloated with too many employees and the government has realized that the private sector has to take up much more of the employment burden than it has until now. For sure, employment in the private sector is more competitive and less secure for Saudis, and more expensive for the employers who have to pay Saudis better than they do the generally cheaper foreign labor. The government has for many years been trying to convince Saudi business owners that while training and employing Saudis may be more expensive in the short term, in the long term it is a much needed investment in the future well-being of our country.
I think there are many reasons behind the reluctance of more Saudis entering the private sector. And I seriously doubt that the majority of those who remain unemployed or underemployed are happy, and don’t want a shot at a stimulating job. There is no massive government scheme that I know of that pays young Saudis to stay at home and do nothing, and as far as I know most of these unemployed Saudis are from middle and working class families. For sure the educational system is partly to blame in that it is producing Saudis who are incapable of analyzing situations on their own and taking decisions when needed. With its emphasis on rote memorization has unfortunately resulted in young Saudis not being ready for today’s competitive job market. The extended family system that most Saudis are born into also tends not to encourage independence in actions, as we know that there will always be some relative there ready to help us financially when the need arises and a maid to clean up after us. Saudi families should start raising their children to be more independent and responsible. They should start with small things such as helping set the table for lunch and dinner; helping clear the table; washing the dishes occasionally; learning how to wash and iron clothes; vacuum the house and clean their own bedrooms. This teaches discipline and self-reliance. Instead of always expecting the maid or your mother/sister/aunt to clean up after you, why not do these things yourself?
But coming back to that Riyadh jobs fair, I think it’s unfair just to look at the numbers. Perhaps more Saudis were not hired because too many of the employers demanded previous work experience that these young applicants did not have? That is a distinct possibility, a common problem that affects jobseekers around the world. The solution is for more companies to offer on-the-job training for new Saudi recruits.
I have faith in the future of young Saudis and the many different types of jobs that they already are and will be employed in. All this excessive griping by foreigners about how lazy Saudis allegedly are is irritating and offensive, especially when I know that is not true of the majority of Saudis. The Kingdom already has enough enemies around the world that are envious of its wealth. We don’t have to endure the ill-will of foreigners here at home too.

The writer is a Saudi journalist based in Brazil.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view