Connecting Students with Jobs

Published: May 15, 2013

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Patrick W. Ryan | SUSRIS

A new initiative to connect university graduates with the job market is about to be unveiled in Saudi Arabia by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education. The program, called “Jahiz” — Arabic for “Ready” — will serve as a bridge between students and employers, according to a HRDF official who spoke with Arab News. He said, “The site has search engines that will match the qualifications of the student with the jobs available at the labor market.” The first phase of Jahiz, expected to be formally announced in about one week, will target Saudi men and women graduating from foreign universities as part of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. There are about 130,000 Saudis studying aboard as part of the program with about 70,000 in American universities. The second phase will work with graduates of universities in the Kingdom. The official noted bachelors degrees will meet requirements for some of the jobs while graduate degrees may be needed for others. He said, “Jahiz will also work on developing the skills of students so that the student can, as much as possible, meet the requirements of the jobs.”

People Saudi Students Graduating from Tennessee Tech 2013
Saudi students at Tennessee Tech University Commencement 2013

Meanwhile, the Saudi embassy will mark the end of the academic year for students graduating from American universities as part of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program with a ceremony and career fair in Washington, DC.  The graduation ceremony is set for May 24th and the career fair will run three days.  Dr. Mody Alkhalaf of the  Saudi Cultural Attache Office at the embassy said there are 8,000 scholarship students including PhDs, medical fellowship certificates, and masters and bachelors degrees in medicine, engineering, management, and economics. The career fair will feature representatives of Saudi Aramco, universities, government departments, banks and airline companies. Alkhalaf said, “So far 30 parties confirmed participation.” She said the event will include workshops on starting small businesses, innovation and job-interview skills. Additional details and photos from previous SACM career exhibitions were provided by Lucien Zeigler writing for SUSTG.org. Minister of Higher Education Khaled Al-Anqari and Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel Al-Jubair will attend the ceremony. The students and their parents will be accommodated in several hotels and provided transport. Arab News columnist Abdulateef Al-Mulhim called the SACM career fair an eye opener for Saudi companies, “It has become so huge, that it is turning into a regular Saudi annual social event.” He added, “Saudi companies would like to attract the top graduates with the most needed majors for the Saudi job market.”

Questions about the composition of the labor force and the search for jobs is a hot topic in Saudi Arabia. SUSRIS spoke with distinguished Saudi businessman Amr Khashoggi in January about the urgency of the employment challenge in the Kingdom:

“As you know we are a very young population, and the “youth bulge” is getting bigger and bigger every year; the number of young Saudi men and women are constantly increasing. We did not have exact numbers of who is really actively looking for work until recently with the introduction of “Hafiz,” a program developed by the Ministry of Labor and blessed by King Abdullah. Hafiz, which means “incentive” in Arabic, aims at helping unemployed Saudi men and women find decent full-time jobs, receiving training or re-training in order to make them employable, and offering the business sector an accessible one-stop shop to find Saudi job seekers. The program also acts as a filter of serious job seekers apart from those who just want to be “on the dole.” The latter are easily identifiable through Hafiz’ rigorous requirements and room is made for those who are serious about employment. Today there are more than two million Saudis registered with Hafiz – men, women and persons with disability – all looking for work.

“At the same time, you have seven million expats working in Saudi Arabia. Counting their dependents the figure exceeds 10 million. That is almost one expat for every two Saudis. These expats transfer their hard-earned dollars abroad and that amounts in the billions of dollars, depriving the local economy from the benefits of such tremendous purchasing power. Hiring Saudis would definitely reverse such trends and keep the money in the country benefitting its economy and its people.

“One cannot fail to mention the cumulative effect of Saudis being fully employed on their families and the social structure of society. The opposite is equally profound, but with disastrous results.”

The synergistic effects of employment, education and the prospects for the economy were emphasized in comments from Richard Wilson, President of the Saudi-US Trade Group in Northern Virginia, “They are entwined; success or failure in any one of them impacts the others.” He told SUSRIS in the annual “Challenges” report that progress in these areas required a “deft policy touch on the part of Saudi leadership and any one of them could erupt in foreseen and unforeseen ways that could be massively disruptive.” He added, “If Saudi Arabia can get its education-employment-economy trajectory on the right path in the next half-decade, its long-term prospects – even in an unsteady region – are terrifically enhanced.”

Job seekers in the Kingdom may be heartened to know that the employment outlook is brighter in Saudi Arabia than in many other countries still climbing back from tough economic times. Last August a Bayt.com Job Index Survey showed that 71 percent of respondents in the country said they would be hiring in the following 12 months, according to Saudi Gazette.  Bayt.com VP Amer Zureikat said, “The level of regional hiring activity remains relatively encouraging given the regional economic backdrop.”

The employment picture was recently illuminated by the release of 2012 data and an insightful report by Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg, writing for Arab News this week.  The employment and unemployment figures for Saudi and non-Saudi men and women are provided below in tables from the Central Department of Statistics and Information along with Aluwaisheg’s report for your consideration. We also have provided a briefing on the King Abdullah Scholarship Program from the 2012 Arab-US Policymakers Conference by Dr. Mody Alkhalaf, Assistant Attache for Cultural and Social Affairs at the Saudi embassy in Washington.

Unemployment and Gender in Saudi Arabia
Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg | Arab News

People Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg
Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

The Central Department of Statistics and Information (CDSI) of Saudi Arabia has just published quarterly unemployment indicators for 2012. There is some good news as well as bad in the new figures.

The indicators trace movement of unemployment rates during 2012, quarter by quarter. As expected in a segmented labor market, unemployment rates in Saudi Arabia are drastically different between Saudis and non-Saudis, as well as between men and women.

It is especially surprising that unemployment rates changed during 2012 in markedly different directions between the four groups (Saudi men and women; non-Saudi men and women). While unemployment rates for Saudi men moved slightly downwards between the first and fourth quarters, they declined dramatically for non-Saudi men and non-Saudi women. However, for Saudi women, unemployment rates continued their upward climb from previous years.

Let us look more closely at the unemployment rates for each of the four groups.

Tables Saudi Employment Rates 2012 CDSI
Source: Central Department of Statistics and Information / Click for larger table.

For Saudi men, unemployment declined from (6.9) percent in the first quarter of 2012 to (6) percent in the fourth quarter, or a (13) percent decline, thus reversing a decade-long trend of rising unemployment among Saudi males.

For non-Saudi men and women, unemployment also declined at a much brisker rate during 2012. In the first quarter, the unemployment rate for men stood at (0.4) percent, dropping to almost zero (0.07 percent) in the fourth quarter, or a (83) percent decline. In other words, unemployment among non-Saudi males declined six times as fast as among Saudi males.

For non-Saudi women, there was also a sharp decline in the unemployment rate from (0.9) percent in the first quarter to (0.2) percent, or (80) percent decline.

Tables Saudi Unemployment Rates 2012 CDSI
Source: Central Department of Statistics and Information / Click for larger table.

The only losers among the four groups were Saudi women. Their unemployment rate was already extremely high in the first quarter (34 percent), but it went up to nearly (36) percent in the fourth quarter, increasing by nearly five percent in that interval.

Unemployment among Saudi women has been on the rise for some time. In 1999, their rate of unemployment stood at (16) percent. It has since steadily climbed to reach (36) percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. In other countries, such high rates of unemployment are associated with economic decline or deep recessions, but as the economy grows unemployment rates usually decline for all social groups, regardless of gender or national origin, even when there are differentials in their unemployment rates.

However, that is not the case in Saudi Arabia, where the economy has been booming and new jobs are created daily, but unemployment rates keep rising as well. In 1999, when unemployment for Saudi women was at (16) percent, gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at only (143) billion dollars. However, by 2012, GDP had risen by (410) percent, to (727) billion dollars. Yet, despite this five-fold increase in GDP over that period, unemployment for women more than doubled, reaching (36) percent in 2012.

The rate of unemployment published by CDSI is calculated by applying a strict definition. It takes into account only those unemployed women who have been seriously searching for work during the month preceding the survey. It thus does not include in the rate those women who are not looking for work for whatever reason, such as full-time housewives or retirees.

Nor do CDSI unemployment figures for women include those who are not searching for employment because they are too discouraged, have lost hope that they would find suitable employment, or do not have the means to “seriously” or properly search for employment. Accordingly, unemployment figures do not include women who are merely waiting for a civil-service job to be advertised, despite the fact that those women are interested in finding work outside the house.

CDSI figures reveal that the total number of Saudi women working outside the house increased during 2012, but only slightly. In 2011, there were (604) thousand women employed, increasing during 2012 by (43) thousand to reach (647) thousand in the last quarter of 2012. The number of employed Saudi women has risen by (300) thousand since 1999, when the number of employed women was only (347) thousand. However, the number of Saudi women employed now (647,000) represents only ten percent of Saudi women in working age.

This low rate of employment for Saudi women is quite low by international standards, where the rate of employment for women reaches an average of (57) percent in industrialized countries.

Saudi Arabia has made great advances in educating women, but that has not enabled them to find gainful employment outside the house. In one generation, Saudi women went from having one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, to having one of the highest rates of university education. There are in fact more women university students than men in Saudi Arabia. However these significant achievements in educating women have not translated into significant employment opportunities. According to CDSI figures, nearly 80% of unemployed Saudi women hold university degrees.

Email: aluwaisheg@gmail.com

Source: Arab News

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