Saudi Arabia feels the chill as cool weather sweeps over regions

Authorities  have warned people to take precautions and avoid areas where torrents have occurred. (SPA)
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Authorities  have warned people to take precautions and avoid areas where torrents have occurred. (SPA)
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Authorities  have warned people to take precautions and avoid areas where torrents have occurred. (SPA)
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Authorities  have warned people to take precautions and avoid areas where torrents have occurred. (SPA)
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Authorities  have warned people to take precautions and avoid areas where torrents have occurred. (SPA)
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Authorities  have warned people to take precautions and avoid areas where torrents have occurred. (SPA)
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Authorities  have warned people to take precautions and avoid areas where torrents have occurred. (SPA)
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Updated 05 December 2020

Saudi Arabia feels the chill as cool weather sweeps over regions

Authorities  have warned people to take precautions and avoid areas where torrents have occurred. (SPA)
  • The northern deserts of the Kingdom have seen a significant amount of rainfall in the past couple of weeks

JEDDAH: It is no secret that the Kingdom’s cities are breathing in the cool air as the late autumn breeze sweeps the nation, making the climate welcoming for all.
Though overwhelmingly arid, as the autumn season draws to a close and the Kingdom welcomes winter, residents have been venturing out to enjoy much-needed relief after months of lockdown and the dry heat that has swept the nation in the past few months.
In the southern region, rainfall has covered the mountainous regions of Asir, Najran, Jazan and their nearby plains in green and created streams, prompting residents to spend their time enjoying the weather while also attracting visitors.
“In all my years, I’ve never visited any of the areas in Saudi but I did so for the first time this year. I visited and camped out in a cave in Al-Baha for the first time a few months ago after the lifting of the lockdown,” Rahaf Mahmoud told Arab News. “I’ve never even thought of discovering my country until now and seeing how peaceful and green the land and forests are has made me plan a visit this week and relax.”
“Who knew I could find an escape so close to home,” she said.
On the coastal plains of the western region, city folk are taking advantage of the sun’s heat during the day as they head to beaches, spending the morning swimming and fishing while in the evening they enjoy barbecues — kababs, chicken and corn with a side of rice.
“That’s the Jeddah way,” said Maha A.R. from Jeddah. “We have the perfect beach weather, humidity is low, a cool breeze cooling the waters and hot sun to keep us warm enough. Nothing like a good busy day to get us hungry for a night of relaxing by the seaside, enjoying the cool evenings with good food, good company and tea brewed over hot coals.”
The northern deserts of the Kingdom have seen a significant amount of rainfall in the past couple of weeks, with occasional hail appearing in some areas.
Although winter is coming and residents are airing their winter gear, Saudi Arabia’s civil defense and its meteorology authority has issued weather warnings in the Kingdom and warned people to take precautions and avoid areas where torrents have occurred.


Saudi Arabia to introduce skills assessment for labor workers

Saudi Arabia to introduce skills assessment for labor workers
The program will examine all skilled workers in their home country before their arrival in Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
Updated 10 min 22 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to introduce skills assessment for labor workers

Saudi Arabia to introduce skills assessment for labor workers
  • Ministry’s Professional Verification program will start coming into force in July

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s skilled workers are to be assessed to ensure they are qualified for their jobs.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (HRSD) announced the launch of the “Professional Verification” program on Sunday, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation.
The minister said on his official Twitter account: “Today (Sunday) we launched the Professional Verification program, to ensure the competence of skilled workers in the Saudi labor market.”
The program aims to verify that all skilled workers in Saudi Arabia have the required skills to perform the occupation they were recruited for, and will include practical and theoretical examinations in the workers’ specialized fields. It will target more than 1,000 professions belonging to 23 fields as per the Saudi Standard Classification of Occupations.
The program, which starts in July, seeks to improve the quality of skilled workers in the Saudi labor market, enhance their productivity, improve the services they provide and reduce the influx of unqualified workers.
The program will examine all skilled workers in their home country before their arrival in the Kingdom, in cooperation with selected international examination centers. It will also examine existing skilled workers in the Kingdom.
HRSD is urging all establishments to begin the verification process by registering on the program’s website — https://svp.qiwa.sa/ — for all their skilled workers, as the verification will gradually be enforced this summer.
Centers interested in becoming licensed to conduct the program’s examination are advised to register in the same link.
Work visas for the targeted jobs will be linked to the skilled workers passing the examination in their home country and will be enforced on a gradual basis in accordance with a roll-out plan developed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the countries sending labor to the Kingdom. This falls under the ministry’s “Professional Accreditation” system.
The new program has been widely welcomed.

HIGHLIGHT

HRSD is urging all establishments to begin the verification process by registering on the program’s website — https://svp.qiwa.sa/ — for all their skilled workers, as the verification will gradually be enforced this summer.

Ali M. Alhazmi, a member of the Association of Financial Professional (AFP), said the professional verification decision is a long awaited one and will have a positive impact on the labor market.
The labor visa was one of the most expensive on the black market because anyone who holds this visa can work in any profession. The professional verification program will prevent unskilled workers from entering the country because they have harmed the national economy. The workers benefited from the country’s concessions or privileges but did not add anything to the national economy, he said.
Osama Alshammari, a member of the Human Resources Committee at the Riyadh Chamber, said the decision will allow only professional workers to pass the exam and meet the standards of their professions in the labor market. Only professional workers can receive a national professional license to practice their profession.
He said that the decision might create job opportunities in the private sector because some workers might not pass the professional exam.
“The initiative aims to establish a national committee to support technical professions and also to set standards and regulations for governance. The regulations will cover the requirements for issuing licenses to professional workers after they have passed the professional verification exam so that they can practice their professions. This will apply to trainers as well,” he said.
Alshammari added that the program will give Saudi technical professional workers a chance to find jobs in small and medium enterprises such as auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers and general maintenance.
Mohammed Al-Sudais, CEO of Carsdees car rentals, said that it is likely that work quality and efficiency will increase.
Al-Sudais, with more than 20 years’ experience in the private sector, encouraged young Saudis looking for appropriate job opportunities to prepare themselves by joining the professional centers. “These professional centers help in the development of the skills and endogenous capacity, in order to overcome the difficulties and challenges of work and to properly meet the needs of the labor market,” he said.
“The professional vetting process can ensure the quality of the labor market by empowering those who are experienced and specialized, as well as protecting them,” he added.


Saudi Arabia steps up inspection tours for virus violations

Saudi Arabia steps up inspection tours for virus violations
There are 505 cases in intensive care units, as reported by the Ministry of Health on Sunday, an increase of 11 in the past 24 hours. (SPA)
Updated 15 min 45 sec ago

Saudi Arabia steps up inspection tours for virus violations

Saudi Arabia steps up inspection tours for virus violations
  • The highest number of violations was in the Riyadh region with 17,321 breaches, while Jazan had the lowest number of violations with just 191

JEDDAH: Saudi authorities are intensifying their field inspection tours to check for COVID-19 violations following the reopening of commercial establishments, with people being reminded about the importance of sticking to health and safety protocols.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Cl. Talal Al-Shalhoub said on Sunday that special forces from the ministry and other relevant authorities, in cooperation with the private sector, had increased their inspection campaigns across all regions to maintain order and monitor violations by establishments and individuals.
There were 41,590 violations reported in the past week by field inspectors. These varied from not adhering to social distancing measures, to overcrowding and not wearing face masks.
The highest number of violations was in the Riyadh region with 17,321 breaches, while Jazan had the lowest number of violations with just 191.
“Though the number of confirmed (COVID-19) cases has been fluctuating in the past few weeks, this could be an indicator that they might be stabilizing,” Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly told the same press conference. “This does not mean we can be careless, these could be the result of the restrictions enforced over the last month.”

FASTFACT

More than 1.33 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people in the Kingdom.

The number of critical care patients continues to rise. There are 505 cases in intensive care units, as reported by the Ministry of Health on Sunday, an increase of 11 in the past 24 hours.
There were also 357 new cases reported, raising the Kingdom’s total number of COVID-19 infections to 379,831.
There are currently 2,689 active COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia and 370,614 people who have recovered from COVID-19, following 314 new recoveries in the past 24 hours.
Saudi Arabia reported four further deaths, bringing the death toll to 6,528.
More than 1.33 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people in the Kingdom.


Attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities spark global condemnation

Attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities spark global condemnation
Updated 25 min 33 sec ago

Attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities spark global condemnation

Attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities spark global condemnation
  • GCC chief says 'terrorist attack' targeted global energy nerve center
  • US senator blames attacks on and Iran emboldened by Biden's softer approach

RIYADH: The attacks on oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia drew regional and internal condemnation on Sunday.

The Kingdom said the drone attack on Ras Tanura Port and attempted missile strike on an Aramco residential area had targeted global energy supplies. Ras Tanura is one of the world’s largest oil shipping ports and the Aramco complex in Dhahran houses workers and their families from all over the world. 

GCC Secretary-General Nayef Al-Hajjraf  said: “These terrorist attacks do not only target the security and economic capabilities of the Kingdom, but also the nerve center of the global economy and oil supplies, as well as global energy security.”

He said the Gulf states stand with the Kingdom, adding that the bloc supports Saudi Arabia in all necessary measures it takes to protect its national capabilities

Bahrain also strongly condemned the attacks, saying they were a violation of international laws.

In Washington, Bill Hagerty, a Republican senator who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said President Joe Biden’s approach to Iran had emboldened the regime to launch more attacks through it proxies on Saudi Arabia.

“Yet another missile strike against Saudi Arabia today with all the hallmarks of an Iranian-backed attack,” he said. “It seems (President) Biden’s desire to give Tehran sanctions relief is emboldening the mullahs to escalate their aggression against us and our allies.”

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh expressed solidarity with the Kingdom.

He also called on the international community to put an end to this terrorism that threatens international security and stability.


Saudi Culture Ministry achieves gender balance with women in key roles

Saudi Culture Ministry achieves gender balance with women in key roles
Updated 40 min 38 sec ago

Saudi Culture Ministry achieves gender balance with women in key roles

Saudi Culture Ministry achieves gender balance with women in key roles
  • Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud is eager to propel women forward as leaders

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has reached a new gender balance of 50 percent in the workplace with many female employees holding top positions.

Dur Kattan, the general director of the deputyship of communication and media, outlined the Ministry of Culture’s mission of empowerment aligned with Vision 2030.

She said that Vision 2030 sought to “empower everyone; men and women. I am lucky to live in these supportive, inspiring and motivational circumstances, with men and women of my generation.”

Over the past two years, the ministry has been exploring new ways to empower Saudi women, not only by offering employment opportunities but also by providing skill development and professional training, and ensuring equal opportunities without gender bias.

Since the launch of Vision 2030, women’s overall presence in the workplace has increased by 35 percent in the Kingdom with a 38 percent rise in the public sector and a 32 percent increase in private-sector jobs.

The ministry’s top positions are occupied by women such as CEOs, managing directors and operational managers. The ministry has made progressive changes over the years to ensure it complies with Vision 2030 plans to empower and create leaders across the Kingdom without gender discrimination.

Some of the female leaders in the Ministry of Culture include Dr. Sumaya Al-Sulaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Commission; Noha Kattan, general director of the deputyship of national partnerships and development; Dina Amin, CEO of the Visual Arts Commission; Mayada Badr, CEO of the Culinary Arts Commission; Razan Al-Ayed, general manager of delivery and project management; and Felwa Al-Bazai, general manager of planning and performance.

The ministry, under the leadership of Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, is eager to propel women forward as leaders in the cultural sector.

Dr. Sumaya Al-Sulaiman believes that women have an important role to play in spreading the cultural values of the Kingdom.

“I think that women empowerment is very important,” she said. “Women must have their space and voice and disseminate their own culture, as individuals or as members of the female community, and women have an influential presence in the Saudi cultural scene.”

The Ministry of Culture gave its leading members an opportunity to reach their full potential and embraces all skill sets and innovative ideas regardless of gender.

“A person’s capabilities and qualifications do not depend on the sex,” Razan Al-Ayed said. “They depend on competency primarily, which does not conflict with the importance of empowering women and enhancing their participation in various areas,” she said.

Aligned with Vision 2030’s initiative, the ministry believes in equal wages and equal job opportunities across all of its divisions, creating a work environment that supports and creates successful and ambitious leaders.

The ministry encourages diversity in employment and leadership positions because it develops an environment of innovative and differentiated thinking.

Dur Kattan said: “In general, intellectual people or cultural practitioners — men or women — have the responsibility to provide their personal insight, which adds a different dimension to the Saudi cultural scene.”

“In accordance with this benchmark, any leader is required to work on creating a homogeneous work system that functions automatically to achieve what is required, without being conditioned by the presence or absence of the leader,” she said.

Diversification and support toward leaders of the new generation in the cultural sector provides new ways of achieving tasks while further enriching the Kingdom in the traditional culture.

Vision 2030’s mission is not only to empower women but to create work environments where diverse thinking and backgrounds can sprout innovation and creative development.

Noha Kattan believes that the Ministry of Culture creates a work environment that gives women and men the ability to shine, and provides them with the key elements of success and empowerment.

Kattan stressed the importance of equality in leadership for both men and women.

“The male or female leader’s mission is to manage the team efficiently, in order to achieve the goals,” she said. “If we look at the level of accomplishment at the Ministry of Culture in the last two years alone (since the launching of its activity) and see how women are essential partners in all that has been achieved, it is possible to say that betting on women empowerment is very gainful and that women’s partnership with men guarantees excellence for our country in all areas.”

The Ministry of Culture has continuously improved its initiatives to further develop the Kingdom’s job market, aligned with Vision 2030 for both men and women.

Mayada Badr said: “This piece of advice is also directed at men and everyone. Trust your capabilities in achieving your dreams.”


Communities, networks key to Saudi women’s progress, experts say

Communities, networks key to Saudi women’s progress, experts say
Emon Shakoor is a neuroscience researcher turned technology entrepreneur and startup catalyst. (Supplied)
Updated 08 March 2021

Communities, networks key to Saudi women’s progress, experts say

Communities, networks key to Saudi women’s progress, experts say
  • Vision 2030 aims to increase the contribution of SMEs to Saudi gross domestic product from 20 to 35 percent
  • Today in Saudi, according to Ministry of Education numbers, more women are graduating from tech-related majors than men

JEDDAH: A determination to strengthen the contribution of Saudi women to society and the economy is one of many bold ambitions outlined in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Women’s economic empowerment is critical to achieving gender equality and strengthening sustainable development cooperation. It includes women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets, having a louder voice and more agency, and their meaningful involvement in economic decision-making at all levels.

This can be achieved by ensuring women’s financial inclusion, technical inclusion, entrepreneurship empowerment and participation in decision-making.

For the second year in a row, Saudi Arabia has made notable progress in advancing women’s economic opportunities, according to the World Bank Group’s latest report.

The Women, Business, and the Law 2021 report placed Saudi Arabia among the leading countries in the Middle East and North African region — scoring 80 points out of 100, up from the 70.6 achieved in 2020.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia has progressed in reducing wage inequality, eliminated restrictions on female employment in jobs previously deemed too dangerous, and lifted bans on women working night shifts.

As science progresses at a rapid pace, access to new technology and the ability to create and shape technological change is increasingly becoming a fundamental tool to support women’s empowerment and improve their lives, especially in a post-pandemic world.

During a roundtable discussion in July last year spawned by Women20 (W20), an official engagement group of the G20, speakers noted that only 48 percent of women are accustomed to the latest technology, while 60 percent of Saudi women use social media platforms without producing any digital content. This confirms that women are users of technology, not producers, they said.

“Improving digital and cybersecurity literacy among women contributes to their economic empowerment, since they will be needed in all sectors locally, regionally and internationally,” Dalal Al-Harthi, a cybersecurity expert, told Arab News.

Al-Harthi is a faculty member at Shaqra University and resident engineer at the US-based cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks. Throughout the last three years, she has worked in three positions across different institutions in the US as the only female engineer in her teams.

However, she considered those situations as motivation to prove herself, as opposed to a challenge.

“Males historically and currently dominate the cybersecurity field. A recent report by Cybersecurity Ventures states that women make up 20 percent of the cybersecurity workforce. Because of this massive shortage of women among cybersecurity professionals today, I became deeply passionate about raising this percentage to 50 percent,” Al-Harthi said.

“The cybersecurity field is the hottest cake in the market, and in high demand around the world,” she added.

Therefore, the digital empowerment of women and girls by upgrading their knowledge and skills allows them to seize the opportunities provided by evolving global markets. Moreover, attracting more women to the tech sector is essential to unlocking the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ensuring technology is developed from a balanced perspective.

Al-Harthi advises women who want to venture into cybersecurity to improve their technical skills, obtain professional certificates, look into cybersecurity job descriptions to grasp the bigger picture, and work on their communication, research and writing skills.

According to the undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, Hind Al-Zahid, having women in prominent leadership positions will result in greater numbers of women in senior roles in the labor market.

Saudi Arabia has increasingly encouraged women’s leadership in recent years. The most notable event came earlier this year, which saw the appointment of Iman Al-Mutairi as executive director for destination branding at the Soudah Development Co., a new brand fully owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

Several initiatives have also been launched to prepare women for leading positions in the public sector, such as the QIYADYAT platform and the leadership academy at the Public Administration Institute.

As it stands, 2.5 percent of leading positions in the Kingdom’s public sector are occupied by women, but in the private sector, the figure rises to 25 percent.

In a recent interview with Al-Arabiya TV, Al-Zahid said that the gap between the public and private sectors is due to the lack of a talent pool that helps include more women in the public sector, as many women work in the education and health industries.

On the bright side, the latest numbers show that women’s participation in the labor market has increased to 31 percent, exceeding the government’s goal of 25 percent by 2025.

Dr. Albandari Al-Rabiah, director of the Studies and Information Department at the Public Administration Institute, said that studies have shown that a balanced representation of women leaders across different levels of an organization leads to a higher level of performance and innovation, and therefore increased revenues and a distinct competitive advantage.

Dr. Al-Rabiah also conducted a field study to evaluate the experience of women leaders in the Kingdom’s public sector.

“The results of the study demonstrated the high sense of commitment among Saudi women toward their responsibilities and role in society, as well as their relentless pursuit to prove themselves, in addition to a number of challenges that face women on the ascending ladder to leadership positions,” she said.

Two years after the study was published, Al-Rabiah insists that the Kingdom is witnessing a decisive turning point for women and their journey towards leadership positions.

The unemployment rate among women in Saudi Arabia is 31 percent, while among men, it stands at 9 percent. Therefore, women have been encouraged to get involved in entrepreneurship to expand their participation in the labor market, fuel economic growth and create more jobs for their female peers.

Vision 2030 aims to increase the contribution of SMEs to Saudi gross domestic product from 20 to 35 percent.

Emon Shakoor, an ex-neuroscience researcher and now technology entrepreneur who started her journey in her early 20s, launched Saudi Arabia’s first tech-inclusion and female-focused accelerator to help more women venture into the field.

“Today in Saudi, according to Ministry of Education numbers, more women are graduating from tech-related majors than men, however after graduation they do not continue working in the industry,” said Shakoor, CEO and founder of Blossom Accelerator.

She said that the way to solve this problem is for women to have more allies, mentors, and networks, because that is the only way that women graduating from the field can stay and strive in the industry.

Shakoor added that entrepreneurship is a male-dominated sector, and that although female entrepreneurs have become more and more noticeable, the most successful and biggest companies in the Kingdom were founded by men.

That is the case not because men are better than women, but because men have their well-established communities, she said.

In her own life, Shakoor said that she did not always receive enough social trust and respect as an ambitious and successful entrepreneur.

“I overcame the situation by continuing to work and focusing on my customers, who are other women founders,” she said.

“People underestimate you at the beginning, but focus on the customer, and you’ll eventually succeed.”