What Saudi Arabia’s improved global ranking in labor resilience signifies

A picture taken on August 17, 2017 shows a Saudi employee using a laptop to prepare a slideshow at his office in the capital Riyadh. (AFP/File Photo)
A picture taken on August 17, 2017 shows a Saudi employee using a laptop to prepare a slideshow at his office in the capital Riyadh. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 22 June 2021

What Saudi Arabia’s improved global ranking in labor resilience signifies

A picture taken on August 17, 2017 shows a Saudi employee using a laptop to prepare a slideshow at his office in the capital Riyadh. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Improvement in Global Labor Resilience ranking ascribed to “digitalization, education and market flexibility”
  • GLRI 2021 report urges governments to invest in job-creating industries to serve growing youth population

DUBAI: Job security has been a major source of anxiety throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdown measures cut into business revenues, forcing many firms to reduce working hours or lay off staff.

In countries with diverse economies, strong digital infrastructure and generous social safety nets, the damage has been somewhat mitigated. For others, the crisis has exposed a serious lack of labor-market resilience.

The 2021 Global Labor Resilience Index (GLRI), compiled by public policy and strategy advisory firm Whiteshield Partners in collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and the Institute for the Future of Work, revealed the countries best placed to cope with labor-market disruptions or even turn challenges into opportunities.

The index ranks 145 countries and economies based on how resilient their labor markets are to a variety of shocks. Leveraging 102 indicators from a wide range of international sources, the GLRI takes into account both longer-term structural factors — such as demographics, the level of economic development and macroeconomic stability, national capabilities, trade vulnerability and inequality — as well as shorter-term cyclical factors that affect the resilience of a country based on its absorptive, adaptive, transformative and institutional capacity.

The study, which revealed a dramatic improvement in Saudi Arabia’s overall ranking, was published in March, shortly after the first anniversary of the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The timing was apt, given the seismic disruptions to employment caused by the health crisis.

“(The GLRI) is the most comprehensive tool for policymakers to assess labor-market readiness for short-term shocks, such as COVID-19, and long-term stresses, such as technological disruptions and green transitions,” Tom Flynn, a senior manager at Whiteshield Partners, told Arab News.

“Policymakers can use the GLRI to identify and apply policies that resilience leaders use to better maintain and develop quality jobs.

“For example, COVID-19 devastated labor markets and jobs globally but top GLRI performers, such as The Netherlands, whose unemployment rate is now around 3 percent, coped relatively better than others.”

Resilient labor markets are more important than ever as part of efforts to preserve stability and livelihoods against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has caused one of the biggest job crises since the Great Depression.

According to the GLRI, Switzerland continues to be the country with the most resilient labor market in the world, followed by Germany and The Netherlands. This year, a new framework was used to measure resilience to all kinds of shocks, with the result that the US (ranked 14th) and the UK (12th) no longer feature in the top 10. On the 2020 index they ranked third and ninth respectively. In contrast, Germany moved up five places to second place.

In the Middle East and North Africa, the index reveals that a number of countries, including the Kingdom, have made progress in improving the resilience of their labor markets and moved up the rankings in the past five years. However it also shows that during the pandemic many of them failed to hold on to those gains.

The UAE remains the highest-ranked Gulf country, despite dropping from 21st place in 2020 to 35th this year. Its relatively high position reflects the government’s efforts to enhance economic diversification as well as support for innovation.




A Saudi female employee checks murchandise at a hypermarket, newly launched by the operator LuLu and run by a team of women, in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah, on February 21, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)

Oman, which ranks 75th, has improved its position on the list by 19 positions since 2016, but was ranked 53rd in 2020 and, so, dropped 22 places in the past year.

Saudi Arabia, which ranks 62nd on this year’s list, managed to buck this trend. Not only has the Kingdom moved up the rankings by 27 places since 2016, it also managed to improve its position by 13 places compared with last year, despite the challenges created by the pandemic.

“Being the Arab world’s leading economy and maintaining economic stability have laid the foundation for improvement,” Flynn said of the Kingdom’s success. “But Saudi Arabia has also moved to invest in resilience supports, such as digitalization and education, and has enacted beneficial policy reforms, such as improving labor-market flexibility.”

Many other countries in the region continue to have significant resilience gaps, however, including the challenges of youth unemployment and preparing their labor markets for digital and “green” jobs. Consequently, they are encouraged to explore youth-employment schemes, green-growth opportunities and policies conducive to entrepreneurship and innovation.




Employes of Aramco oil company work in Saudi Arabia's Khurais oil processing plant. (AFP/File Photo)

“The GLRI provides Middle Eastern policymakers with a blueprint to develop sustainable jobs — a critical challenge for the region, which has relatively fragile labor markets and economies,” Fadi Farra, a co-founder and partner at Whiteshield Partners, told Arab News.

“One lesson from this year is that resilience leaders often developed strong labor markets by focusing efforts on improving specific economic foundations or policies to drive resilience, rather than attempting whole-scale reform.”

In the case of Saudi Arabia, the GLRI indicates there is room for improvement at a policy level. For example, the Kingdom ranks 76th on the cyclical pillar, which assesses a country’s policy response cycle when faced with crises.

“In particular, attracting and developing talent and improving the overall business environment, such as in business insolvency and access to credit, can help Saudi Arabia drive growth in innovative small and medium enterprises and start-ups and provide new sources of private-sector jobs,” Farra said.




Saudi Rodina Maamoun, who employed 19 young women almost entirely replacing the men, sells jewellery at a retail store in Riyadh's Hayat mall on February 19, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

According to Flynn, digitalization, the green economy and a growing youth population will continue to challenge the Kingdom and its regional neighbors to provide more, and better-quality, jobs geared toward future industries.

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown how relying on a few industries and natural resources for economic growth leaves Middle Eastern labor markets, particularly in the Gulf, vulnerable to shocks, with youth and lower-skilled workers particularly hurt,” Flynn said.

“While the Middle East, and particularly Saudi Arabia, has experienced clear improvements in labor-market resilience, there is potential to go further.”

Firstly, he argues, governments must adopt policies that promote the digital and green economies as well as traditionally job-creating sectors such as logistics and manufacturing.

“Strong skills-development and apprenticeship programs can help prepare young and experienced workers for these new jobs,” Flynn said.

“Secondly, resilience leaders such as Germany and the Netherlands have shown that strong institutions that can develop and implement job-creating policies, and respond quickly during crises, have proven more critical than ever.”




People walk on the platform of the Haramain High Speed Rail Network. Saudi Arabia is boosting its infrastructure spending and expanding its railways as it seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy. (AFP/File Photo)

The GLRI defines a resilient labor market as one that generates sustainable demand for a wide range of occupations for much of the workforce, supplies quality work and can withstand disruptions. While governments can plan for climate change and technological disruption, they cannot accurately forecast economic, social or health-based shocks, which may become more frequent.

Vulnerabilities in the global workforce related to inclusivity, especially in relation to young people, women and casual workers, have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Women and young people have been the hardest hit by job losses. At the same time, many informal or “gig economy” workers have found themselves without a social safety net.

Focusing on the long term, the GLRI advises governments to invest more in building labor-market resilience by investing in digitalization, improving employment-related inclusivity, and prioritizing environmental sustainability.

“Having a good resilience index is always important, at any time, because labor markets are changing all the time and the resilience index tells us where labor markets are going and how good they are at absorbing shocks and creating new jobs,” said Sir Christopher A. Pissarides, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, chair of the GLRI Advisory Board and a director of Whiteshield Partners.

“This year is particularly important because, as we all know, there has been a massive new shock which was completely unexpected. Learning more about labor markets and how resilient they are to new shocks such as COVID-19 is very important.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 506,089
  • A total of 8,237 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 11 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,146 new infections on Saturday.
Of the new cases, 243 were recorded in Riyadh, 209 in the Eastern Province, 196 in Makkah, 84 in Asir, 79 in Jazan, 64 in Madinah, 56 in Hail, 53 in Najran, 34 in Al-Baha, 33 in the Northern Borders region, 19 in Tabuk, and eight in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 506,089 after 1,086 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,237 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 26.6 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world

Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome. (SPA)
Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world

Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome. (SPA)
  • Italian undersecretary for culture praised Saudi approach to culture as ‘innovative and proactive’

ROME: Culture will be the driving force for a more sustainable world and a more prosperous future for all nations, Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome.

He took part as vice president of the G20 Ministerial Meeting of Culture organized by the Italian government, which chairs the G20 this year.

It represents the culmination of the Sherpa Cultural Track within the framework of the G20 agenda, a track that was created during the Kingdom’s assumption of the summit’s presidency in 2020.

The current presidency has identified five priorities for the Sherpa Cultural Track meetings for the year 2021: cultural and creative industries as key drivers of sustainability and growth, protection of cultural heritage, addressing climate change through culture, capacity-building through training and education, and digital transformation from a cultural perspective.

During the meeting, Prince Badr expressed appreciation to Italian Minister for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini.

The prince also praised the efforts of the Italian presidency in building on the commitments of the first joint meeting of culture ministers, which resulted in laying the foundations for “fruitful cooperation” among the members of the G20 in order to promote culture as a development engine and a key factor in prosperity.

He then reviewed the Kingdom’s “continuous efforts” to preserve cultural heritage, noting that Saudi Arabia has made great strides to this end with the registration of six sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

He also stressed the Kingdom’s commitment to promoting international dialogue on the role of culture in mitigating the effects of climate change, contributing to a re-imagining of the relationship between cultural policymaking and environmental sustainability, launching research initiatives and exploring the vast potential of digitization in cultural sectors to increase their contribution to economic growth.

Prince Badr’s remarks were well received by Franceschini, who also expressed his gratitude to his Saudi counterpart for the “outstanding work in the G20 presidency” and repeated the G20 pledge to “continue to support culture and workers in the sector.” He cited culture as a “great factor of growth” and one that leads to the “creation of opportunities for the new generations and the most vulnerable categories.”

“The Rome Declaration of the Ministers of Culture, unanimously approved, is made up of 32 qualifying points. In the document, very strong expressions appear on the fight against discrimination, on the defense of human rights and on the enhancement of diversity,” Franceschini added during the session.

“The Saudi approach on culture is definitely interesting as it is an innovative and proactive one.  And proactivity and innovation are definitely what is needed most in this difficult period,” Italian Undersecretary for Culture Lucia Borgonzoni told Arab News at the end of the meeting, whose plenary session was held in the spectacular scenario of the Coliseum.

“Like Italy, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sees cultural and artistic heritage as drivers for economic development but also as a way of preserving identities and opening up to other cultures,” she added.


Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
  • Its mountains, valleys, plains, deserts are perfect escape for people trying to avoid bright city lights to observe night sky
  • Stargazing offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s size and diverse topography make it an ideal location for astronomy enthusiasts. Its mountains, valleys, sand dunes, hills, plains and large deserts are a perfect escape for people trying to avoid the bright city lights to observe the night sky.

Mulham Hindi, an astronomy researcher, told Arab News that the best place to observe the night sky is far away from light pollution caused by human settlements.
“It is also best in locations where cloud cover is low. With its different terrains and huge size, Saudi Arabia is a suitable place for observing stars and even building observatories,” Hindi said.
He added that there are many locations in Saudi Arabia that are perfect places for astronomers and stargazers, citing Bani Malik, 150 kilometers south of Taif as a prime example.
“The (height above sea level) of that mountainous area reduces the percentage of moisture and atmospheric impurity,” he explained. “Its throughout-the-year cloud cover is less than 25 percent.”
Hindi also mentioned Al-Figrah mountain, west of Madinah, as one of the best areas for stargazing, as the mountain stands an estimated 6,000 feet above sea level.
“With their moderate weather, the northwestern regions of the Kingdom — which include AlUla, the Red Sea Projects, and NEOM — are among the areas with the least light pollution, (so) stargazers regularly visit,” he added.
Hindi explained that the observation of the stars and planets is deeply rooted in Saudi culture, particularly in the nomadic lifestyle prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula before the discovery of oil.
“Stars are (mentioned in) many Arabic poems that were composed hundreds of years ago and are still cited today,” he said. “It is also part of Saudi culture to observe stars while moving from one place to another, especially in the desert areas.”
Hindi also noted that the night sky above the Kingdom has become a popular subject for photographers in recent years. “These photographers have enriched exhibitions with very beautiful photos of the starry sky of the Kingdom, its distinctive terrains and heritage sites,” he said.
From a scientific perspective, he pointed out, the development and growing popularity of astronomy have encouraged Saudi astronomers to examine the planets, galaxies and stars more thoroughly than ever before, producing “scientific studies and research (that) can significantly contribute to the study of astronomy.”
A few days before his death earlier this month, the head of the astronomy and space department at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), Dr. Hasan Asiri, spoke to the Saudi Press Agency about the difference between the three main types of terrain for stargazing in the Kingdom — deserts, plains and mountains.
“Deserts are characterized by their aridity and lack of light pollution. They include the desert of the Empty Quarter, the Nafud desert, Al-Dahna desert and Bajada desert, which is located to the west of Tabuk region,” Asiri said.
He added that plains are characterized by stable atmospheric layers and low temperatures and humidity levels. “These include the plains of NEOM, AMAALA the Red Sea islands, Al-Wajh, Al-Shuaibah and Al-Silaa region located to the south of Al-Wajh province.”
Mountains, he explained, typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust. He listed Al-Figrah Mountains, west of Madinah; Taif’s Al-Shafa and Al-Hada Mountains; and Mount “Ral,” near Al-Wajh’s Al-Manjor Center as good spots for astronomers. “Several cities can also be added to the list of sites suitable for observational astronomy, namely the northwestern city of AlUla, which is considered one of the Kingdom’s most prominent tourist destinations, in addition to Hail and Tayma, found to the southwest of the city of Tabuk,” he added.
Asiri said that ‘stargazing tourism’ offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
“This issue interests many people, especially now that the Kingdom is steadily moving forward towards establishing an actual tourism sector and ensuring its sustainability through a comprehensive national development plan,” he said.
“Establishing additional stargazing reserves allows us to create new and exceptional tourist destinations that are at the same time entertaining and educational,” he continued. “It also enables us to organize astronomical events, such as world space weeks or astronomy days, activate public and private space domes, and participate in scientific activities related to astronomical events — such as observing solar and lunar eclipses, shooting stars and planets. This approach would combine science with the joy of observing the night sky.”
The Kingdom is already home to several observatories, he noted, including those in Makkah, Al-Wajh and Halat Ammar, as well as the mobile observatories in Sudair, Tumair, Shaqra, Qassim, Dammam, Madinah and Hail. Meanwhile, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Center for Crescents and Astronomy, located at the top of Makkah’s Clock Tower, is considered the largest network of astronomical telescopes in the world.
According to the head of the Qatif Astronomy Society, Dr. Anwar Al-Mohammed, the Milky Way is one of the best astronomical phenomena to observe.
“It is the galaxy in which our sun and the solar system are located. It (consists of) more than 100 billion solar masses,” he explained. “At night, the Milky Way appears as a band of light in the sky and its appearance differs between one region and another based on the level of light pollution.”
Al-Mohammed noted that the Red Sea Development Company is currently working on turning an area of the Tabuk region between the provinces of Umluj and Al-Wajh into an “International Starlight Reserve,” by limiting the use of unnatural lighting in the Red Sea Project at night.
This, he said, could qualify the area as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a region characterized by “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment”), which requires the approval of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
If it were to be granted membership, he explained, “it would be joining more than 100 international sites that have abided by strict measures when supporting their communities to achieve this goal, and restore the amazing relationship between mankind and the stars.”


Saudi study documents safety of AstraZeneca

The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. (REUTERS file photo)
The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi study documents safety of AstraZeneca

The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. (REUTERS file photo)
  • No major side effects were observed, no breakthrough infection was reported

JEDDAH: A Saudi study has documented the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine used to protect people against the coronavirus.

The results of the study, titled the “Safety and Reactogenicity of the ChAdOx1 (AZD1222) COVID-19 Vaccine in Saudi Arabia,” were shared on Friday by the deputy minister of preventive health, Abdullah Assiri.
The cross-sectional study, conducted on 1,592 randomly selected vaccinees, measured the “estimated the safety and reactogenicity of the ChAdOx1-S vaccine as administered to adults after the first dose.”
No major side effects were observed and no breakthrough infection was reported during the observation period.
The results showed that 34.7 percent of the studied group reported a reaction after the first dose while none of the group had any reaction after the second.
Some of the side effects reported among the group were injection site pain in 30.5 percent, musculoskeletal symptoms in 27.5 percent, while 62.4 percent of males experienced more fever than females (37.6 percent).
The study also concluded that the rate of post-vaccine COVID-19 infection was 0.5 percent with zero hospitalization.

INNUMBERS

524,584 Total cases

505,003 Recoveries

8,226 Deaths

11,355 Active cases

“The data showed that the vaccine is well tolerated with differences in the reactogenicity between males and females. In the follow-up period, there was no reported COVID-19 infection, hospital admissions or death,” the study found. “However, the prevalence of the different variants in Saudi (Arabia) is not reported. In an international phase clinical trial, a single dose of the Ad26.COV2.S vaccine showed 67 percent efficacy in preventing moderate to severe–critical COVID-19 as evaluated 14-28 days after the dose administration. The efficacy against severe–critical COVID-19 was 77-85 percent as evaluated 14-28 days post after administration.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Friday reported 14 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 8,226.
There were 1,187 new cases, meaning that 524,584 people in the country had contracted the disease. A total of 11,355 cases remained active, of which 1,395 patients were in critical condition.
In addition, the ministry said that 1,176 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 505,003.
Meanwhile, 26,395,789 people in the country to date have received a jab against COVID-19, including 1,458,482 elderly people.


Saudi Arabia will not tolerate human trafficking crimes, says attorney general

Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib. (Supplied)
Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib. (Supplied)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia will not tolerate human trafficking crimes, says attorney general

Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib. (Supplied)
  • “The system stipulates a number of severe penalties for those who carry out any of the criminal descriptions”

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution will not tolerate trafficking in persons and will take legal measures against the perpetrators of such crimes, the Kingdom’s attorney general has said.

Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib said that the victims of such crimes would receive special attention from the competent care authorities.

His statement was made in response to World Day Against Trafficking on July 30.

“The Saudi state, since its inception, has been protecting rights and freedoms from all forms of crime and exploitation, emphasizing the Basic Law of Governance and all the systems in force in the Kingdom and international treaties and charters, and designated an independent system concerned with this crime — the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law,” Al-Mujib said.

“The Public Prosecution is responsible for filing a criminal case against violators of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, as well as inspecting and monitoring shelters for victims of trafficking in persons in order to protect them,” he said. “The system stipulates a number of severe penalties for those who carry out any of the criminal descriptions.”

The bureau has also allocated an independent department to investigate such crimes and undertake the related procedures to deal with them.

Meanwhile, president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC), Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, said that the Kingdom was at the forefront of anti-trafficking efforts.

He said that the Kingdom was deeply committed to the protection and promotion of human rights. It had focused on criminalizing and combating trafficking in persons crimes through a variety of measures and procedures that guaranteed human dignity and protected against all forms of degradation and exploitation.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the direction of King Salman and the supervision of the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, has made progress in its ranking on TIP (Trafficking In Persons) index reports putting itself on par with developed countries,” Al-Awwad said.

“The Kingdom continues to exert significant and relentless efforts to combat trafficking in persons crimes through a variety of measures, most notably the formation of the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee, the passing of adequate laws and legislations that guarantee the protection of victims and the preservation of their rights,” he said.

Saudi Arabia had made domestic and international commitments by signing and ratifying agreements and conventions, he said.

Al-Awwad said that the Kingdom did not limit its efforts to the passing of laws and legislation that combated trafficking in persons. Rather, it made sure those laws were implemented and respected by creating initiatives and mechanisms to ensure implementation.

Saudi Arabia’s Anti-TIP National Referral Mechanism (NRM) created a national reference and framework to guarantee better Anti-Trafficking in Persons cooperation.

The NRM also helped to raise awareness about the regulatory, legal and procedural aspects of the issue, created principles for dealing with Trafficking in Persons cases, and clarified the roles and responsibilities assigned to various government agencies.

The NRM further helped to promote victim protection, ensured they were able to access the range of services provided to them, and contributed to tracking and addressing cases.

Al-Awwad said that these efforts affirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to the protection of human rights as a deeply rooted principle in the Saudi quest to preserve human dignity.

He said that the committee worked to enhance cooperation with various government agencies, NGOs and international organizations.

Alongside other measures, the committee assigned a national TIP crimes team and organized a variety of training programs to build national Anti-Trafficking in Persons capacities, he said.