Why are there so many foreign workers in Saudi Arabia? Why are there so many unemployed Saudis? The Minister of Labor explains it quite clearly: Eight six percent of the jobs needed to be done in Saudi Arabia “are not fit” for Saudis to perform!

I really don’t know where this attitude of ‘unfit jobs’ came into Saudi culture. Before the oil boom, Saudis had a very clear choice: work or starve. Now, it appears that young Saudis survey the job market as they would a box of chocolates, delicately picking out the prime pieces, those that promise high salaries and prestige for little or no work.

Yes, there are jobs people do not like to do. I would not, of choice, work in a sewage treatment plant, for example. But if the options were to work in a sewage plant or to rely on government handouts, I’d be working in the sewage plant. Or digging ditches, or building walls, or fixing cars. It’s quite astonishing to see a nation operate on the principle of “Oh, that’s dirty! I won’t do it,” in the face of growing unemployment and the massive shift of money out of its economy to other countries.

The thing is, honorable work is honorable. This includes working as a plumber, a bus driver, a ditch digger. They offer no moral hazard. The only things they don’t offer is high salaries and a sense of prestige. The salary question can be answered by instituting a realistic minimum wage that applies to all who labor in the Kingdom. The question of prestige, though, is one that can only be resolved by a change in attitude. It’s particularly frustrating to see Saudi society condemn on contemn those who would take jobs “beneath the dignity” that society places on them. Some Saudi women, for example, are willing to take on jobs as domestic workers. They need to earn an income. Instead, society tells them it’s better for them and their children to starve than to take on “unfit” jobs. Ridiculous.

Were entire categories of workers to suddenly disappear, Saudi cities would be piled high with trash, sewers and septic tanks would overflow, no structures would be built until Saudis realized that honest work is honest work.

86% jobs ‘not fit for Saudis’

Labor Minister Adel Fakeih said yesterday that 86 percent of jobs done by expatriates are not suitable for Saudis. However, he said the new Saudization drive was aimed at creating more jobs for two million unemployed citizens.

Speaking to Al-Sharq daily, he said 85 percent of Saudi job seekers are women. “Moreover, 330,000 Saudis, who graduate from secondary schools every year, also look for jobs,” he added.

He said the new labor laws would help flush out coverup businesses that constitute 42 percent of small enterprises in the country.

“There are about eight million expatriate workers and 86 percent of them (6 million) do menial jobs that do not suit Saudis,” the minister said. Annual foreign transfers of expatriates would cross SR 130 billion by the end of this year, he added.

Fakeih said 68 percent of foreign workers in the Kingdom receive a monthly salary of less than SR 1,000 and 18 percent less than SR 2,000. “This means 86 percent of foreigners get low salaries.”

December:19:2012 - 10:04 | Comments & Trackbacks (12) | Permalink
12 Responses to ““Well, There’s Your Problem…””
  1. 1
    Jerry M Said:
    December:19:2012 - 11:41 

    I wonder if Saudis have any idea of what kind of jobs people do in other countries, in particular young people.

  2. 2
    John Burgess Said:
    December:19:2012 - 15:30 

    @Jerry M: I suppose those Saudi students studying abroad might have an idea. They might even have picked up a part-time job or two. As for those who’ve never left the Kingdom? I don’t think they have the first clue in the clue box.

  3. 3
    Andrew Said:
    December:19:2012 - 17:12 

    A study finds support for the notion that gender segregation in employment is socially beneficial.


  4. 4
    John Burgess Said:
    December:19:2012 - 17:56 

    @Andrew: Just from the abstract, the report seems to be saying that at women-only companies, women become executives more often than they do in gender-mixed companies. That doesn’t strike me as brilliant science.

  5. 5
    Andrew Said:
    December:19:2012 - 18:56 

    Women earn less money than men the more the sexes share the same occupations, this large-scale survey of 20 industrialised countries has found.

    The more that women and men keep to different trades and professions in a country, the more equal is the overall pay average for the two sexes.

    The researchers attribute the surprising results to the fact that when there are few men in an occupation, women have more chance to get to the top and earn more. But where there are more equal numbers of men and women working in an occupation the men dominate the high-paying jobs.

  6. 6
    Bigstick1 Said:
    December:20:2012 - 00:18 


    Really? Wonder why? Let’s think about this for a minute. If you have less men in a field than women then of course they will get more top job positions in those fields. Why? Because there are not many men in these fields. However are those fields paying what male dominated or equally mixed are paying? I doubt it.

    Next issue; women are coming from a situation where fields where never open to them so they must battle in order to get in the top positions as the men have always dominated the field. Just think 40 to 50 years ago few women were allowed in numerous fields to begin with and there are fields that still try to belittle women in intelligence and ability. After all I think it is difficult to overcome society’s unfound beliefs and religious (fairytale BS) beliefs and purposely imposed contraints in just a generation or two. Don’t you? After all we are talking thousands of years worth of fairytales and might make right dogma, ya know.

    So is this a surprising fact? No. It actually makes sense.

  7. 7
    Aunty May Said:
    December:20:2012 - 03:22 


    About those Saudi boys studying abroad; I have never heard or known one to be employed, whilst studying. My good friend who is in charge of bringing hundreds over to NZ and Australia also agrees. Their attitude is this…”why should we even dream of working, when our government gives us $5000 per month”.

    I could write several books on these young lads. Out of every 20 male students going to the “land of down-under”, only 2 are serious students, who prefer to distance themselves from the pact. The others have no time to work as the brutal facts are: 1.Many arrive late each day to class as they slept in from a late night.
    2. Many spend most evenings at brothels
    3.They spend a small fortune on booze and drugs… a hard fact.

    That is the harsh reality of many of these students. If any Saudi reads this, and finds what I say offensive; well, tough. I am not the one who wastes good money, these student are. And they should be held accountable too. The government in both countries hushes this on-going problem up as bringing in the Saudis is a multi-million dollar business. If any one disputes this, go to Australia and NZ and see for yourself. It is a disgrace what these lads do, taking advantage of the King’s generosity by giving such a large allowance. The majority of these students go to learn English. However, the students who are doing their Masters and Aviation studies are mainly focussed and a pleasure to know and have in Australia and NZ. They are welcomed with open arms. Yet the others are an on-going problem.

    Many people in the field of education in NZ and Australia have said time and time again, “Take away the huge allowance and they will slowly develop into real men”.

    Meanwhile the majority of male Saudi students who study English don’t get out of bed for less than $5000.

  8. 8
    John Burgess Said:
    December:20:2012 - 08:39 

    @Aunty May: I actually do know of at least some Saudis — male and female — who take on part-time jobs while studying in the US. Their government stipends only go so far and they supplement them by taking jobs in convenience stores, behind the counter at McDonald’s, paid internships, etc. I know that many are profligate hedonists, but I think the percentage is lower than in the past. There is a general realization that going to school now means everything for the future.

    Having numbers of Saudis at any given school, rather than just one or two, also triggers a social brake. Saudis really don’t like to misbehave in front of other Saudis, particularly ones they don’t know.

  9. 9
    Andrew Said:
    December:20:2012 - 17:29 

    A sign that American and Saudi values are not so different regarding gender:


  10. 10
    John Burgess Said:
    December:20:2012 - 18:19 

    @Andrew: That’s an interesting study. I really doubt, though, that income potential is the major driver in marriage choices. For many, it never even enters the equation, or if it does, it doesn’t get much past “Does s/he have a job?” Many variable that are actually included in the decision are excluded from the study.

  11. 11
    Andrew Said:
    December:20:2012 - 19:50 

    John Burgess:

    You say:

    “I really doubt, though, that income potential is the major driver in marriage choices.”

    I would say that you are somewhat correct in situations in which the couple themselves decide the matter, in that they likely do not formally examine the issue in a very rationalistic way.

    Yet evidence suggests
    that arranges marriages are somewhat different.

    In our society, the couple often are not the primary decisionmakers regarding their marital partner.

    And, for those who are the main decisionmakers, I am quite certain that income potential is often a major driver (among several others).

    For the USA, the reality of assortative mating is rather prominent, and so income potential is clearly a strong element in mate selection.


    So, I believe that there is an imputed value to potential future income that is ascribed to desirable mates in the USA, that is not so easily overlooked.

  12. 12
    John Burgess Said:
    December:20:2012 - 21:59 

    @Andrew: I don’t doubt that earning potential plays some role. I just think it’s not as big a role as that study would suggest. It definitely comes into play with arranged marriages, however. In fact, it might be the principal factor!

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