By SEIF A. SOMALYA, JEDDAH
Very disappointing that initial reaction of some businesses toward this proposal by the Labor Minister is one of guarded approval. It is not a question of whether the new law is feasible or not, it underscores the government’s earnest desire to provide the sons and daughters of the soil employment opportunities in the private sector.
It is also aimed at avoiding any social unrest arising from this rising unemployment. Many private companies pay a slave wage and have turned into sweatshops, and so are afraid to provide normal work environment. Big businesses have earned billions in super abnormal profits over decades and it is their moral obligation to give something back, especially in this critical juncture of Saudi employment need. This open discrimination between pay of Saudis and non-Saudis is abhorrent and undermines the hitherto good image of Saudi Arabia. It is also against International Labor Organization’s laws and recommendations. The mindset that expatriates are cheap and can be slave driven should disappear. These private companies should embrace Saudization with gusto and enthusiasm for long-term prosperity and harmony.
The six-year cap proposal shows the urgency with which the government views the unemployment among Saudi youths — both males and females and more so in view of the Arab Spring sweeping the Arab world, where one of the biggest grievances is lack of job opportunities.
In many countries, affirmative action is legislated. In India, many seats in universities and other institutions are reserved for those worse off in social strata so as to bring about equity in both education and employment. The government job is to maintain and protect those who are worse off for whatever reasons.
All medium-sized and large companies while filing audited accounts must enclose a separate audited segment report showing movement on Saudization under three management categories, top management, middle management and non-management, and further summarized under sales, admin, finance, EDP and so on.
The gap between private and public sector in all spheres must be narrowed, including holidays, working hours etc. Productivity is not directly related to long hours — there is a law of diminishing return! Many Saudis in private sector always desire to work in the government, especially after recent two salaries special bonuses.