Wednesday August 1, 2018
High rates of unemployment due to a swelling of expat labourers has forced citizens to find work as burger flippers, tea-sellers, cleaners and Uber drivers
Saudi nationals used to luxury living in the oil-rich state are now finding more work as burger flippers and tea merchants.
cuts to oil-funded subsidies and high unemployment has lead to locals
being prepared to do more manual work for extra cash.
Blue-collar occupations are usually occupied by expats from Africa or Southeast Asia, but they are leaving the Saudi kingdom in droves.
AFP reports the once tax-free petro-state long offered its citizens cradle-to-grave welfare.
Cooking, cleaning and working at gas stations have largely been the preserve of foreign workers, who far outnumber Saudis.
Saudis are increasingly taking on such 'low status' jobs in a new age
of austerity when gas is no longer cheaper than water. People were surprised when Bader al-Ajmi, 38, opened a burger enterprise.
I started this food truck two years ago many people said: 'What? You
will sell burgers and sandwiches in the street? You come from a big
family and big tribe.
Many people were against the (food truck),' Ajmi said.
'Now they say: 'If you have a job, let me know.''
For the first time, a new crop of Saudi nationals are working as tea sellers and car mechanics.
Posh Lexus-owners work as Uber drivers for spare cash.
'Will Saudis ever work as street cleaners?' columnist Abdulhadi al-Saadi recently asked in the daily Saudi Gazette.
December, residents of eastern Al-Ahsa region feted a handful of young
Saudis who swallowed their pride to do another job long deemed
dishonourable — working at a gas station.
'There is no shame in this work,' a gas station customer said in a Snapchat video.
'Prophet Mohammed used to work as a shepherd.'
It remains unclear how many nationals have moved into blue-collar jobs but the trend defies a popular maxim among Saudis:
'They (expats) work for us, we don't work for us.'
are moving into jobs historically dominated by expatriate workers,'
said Graham Griffiths, senior analyst at the consultancy Control Risks.
social stigma surrounding certain types of manual or service-based
labour has been strong, but economic necessity is pushing many to take
such jobs regardless of their social status.'
Cultural attitudes to work are changing amid a major retooling of Saudi Arabia's lagging economy.
are growing more accustomed to being served by their own people as part
of a re-structuring effort to tackle unemployment
The country is seeking to wean citizens off government largesse as it prepares for a post-oil era.
two-thirds of all Saudis are employed by the government, and the public
sector wage bill and allowances account for roughly half of all
Abdullah al-Maghlouth said the new economy will push more Saudis to
become plumbers, carpenters and tailors, jobs that were acceptable
decades ago in the pre-oil boom era.
the government's push to replace foreigners with Saudi workers — a
policy known as 'Saudization' — as well as a backbreaking expat levy are
driving a huge exodus of expats, who hold 70 percent of all jobs.
statistics show nearly 800,000 foreign workers have left the kingdom
since the beginning of 2017, creating what business owners call a
An Indian diner said
it was in trouble, unable to secure work permits for its South Asian
chefs, leaving its expansion plans in limbo.
exodus has sent the rental property market plummeting and cities like
Riyadh are dotted with empty storefronts and shopping malls amid slack
implementing 'Saudization' also complain of a high rate of attrition and
a displaced sense of entitlement among more expensive Saudi workers
accustomed to different economic realities.
manager at a refrigerator manufacturing plant that recently hired
dozens of Saudi assemblers and technicians said a handful of them were
found 'sleeping in their cars during working hours'.
companies are reported to be circumventing the policy by paying Saudi
workers small salaries to sit at home, effectively creating bogus jobs
in a malpractice termed 'fake Saudization'.
contentious policy is not driving down joblessness among nationals.
Unemployment among Saudis rose to nearly 13 percent in the first quarter
of this year.
The challenge, observers say, is not just to create more jobs for Saudis but also to convince citizens to take them.
sizzling slabs of meat inside his food truck, Ajmi said in the early
days his business was a one-man show. He did everything from dicing
vegetables to handling the countertop deep fryer.
has since hired two more Saudis and two Indian workers, but recruiting
Saudis willing to do the late-night job — from 9:00 pm until midnight —
remains a challenge.
A dazzlingly lit
coffee and dessert food truck parked next to his is also owned by a
Saudi, but the workers inside are all Filipinos.