Expats Dominate Saudi Labor Market But Only in Menial Jobs

17 percent of foreign workers are in skilled category, with remainder mostly working in agriculture, cleaning and domestic service

SAEED HAIDER — Saudi Arabia has the third highest expatriate presence– behind the United States and Russia, but more than 80 percent of these expats hold menial jobs and do not earn more than SR2500 a month. This defies a general perception that expatriates in the Kingdom are the main cause of rising unemployment among Saudis.

The problem lies in the fact that the labor department has defined more than 60 categories that are reserved for Saudi workers only but unfortunately that spiral list does not include professions like domestic helps, agriculture labor, construction unskilled laborers, light and heavy vehicle drivers, cooks, waiters, plumbers, electricians, masons, carpenters and dozens of other blue collared jobs.

Many analysts and commentators have been critical of huge number of expatriates and labeled them as main cause of unemployment.

A recent news item in Arabic daily said: “Expatriates are in control of about 75.6 percent of jobs in Saudi labor market.”

Quoting General Organization of Social Insurance (GOSI), the report said 66.2 percent of the working expatriates were men and 9.4 percent women.

The report further added that Saudis represented about 24.4 percent of the job holders. They consist of 16 percent men and 8.4 percent women.

According to the statistical reports of the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat) for the first quarter of 2019, there were 12.76 million workers in the Kingdom of whom about 10.95 million were men representing about 82.2 percent and 2.27 million women representing about 17.8 percent.

The report said the number of the Saudi workers were 3.11 million of whom about 65.4 percent were men and 34.6 percent women who were 1.08 million.

It said the Saudis in the age group of 30-35 represented about 18.5 percent of the working people followed by citizens in the age group of 35-39 who represented 17.3 percent.

The report said a majority of the Saudis were working in Riyadh, Makkah and the Eastern Province representing about 77.2 percent with Riyadh having the largest number of the working Saudis who represented about 39.2 percent.

The other side of the picture is that only about 17 percent of foreign workers are in the skilled category, with the remainder mostly working in agriculture, cleaning and domestic service.

Experts agree that unemployment rate which reached an alarming 12 percent cannot be brought down drastically unless Saudization process is taken to the grass root level. There is no denying the fact that there is reluctance on part of Saudi males to take up menial jobs. “We need to be realistic and pragmatic. All jobs are respectable and have dignity. It is about time that Saudis should be willing to fill all kind of jobs even the blue collared ones,” said Saeed Al-Qahtani, an industrial expert.

On the contrary, Saudi women are keen to take up all possible jobs.

“Dignity of labor is in every position. My only concern is to have a job that respects my culture and religion,” said Fatima working in a local hospital in Dammam. Interestingly after the opening up of jobs for females in various sectors the employment ratio among them has gone substantially up compared to men who still want managerial and supervisory jobs.

Al-Bilad Daily English Online