- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi drive to shake off work-shy reputation.
- Date: 2nd February 2012
- Summary: SAUDI SHOE FACTORY OWNER HANI BIN JADEED, ONE OF THE FUNDED PROJECTS BY THE CENTENNIAL FUNDS, TEACHING HIS EMPLOYEES CLOSE OF EMPLOYEE WORKING HANI BIN JADEED OBSERVING ONE OF HIS EMPLOYEES VARIOUS OF EMPLOYEE CUTTING THE SOLE OF THE SHOES (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HANI BIN JADEED, SAUDI SHOE FACTORY OWNER, SAYING: "I heard about the Centennial Fund and applied to request funds. I got moral support from them, not only financially, but they supported me until I got the funding and thankfully started the project. I consider it a success story for me and I'm proud like any other successful young Saudi." LABOURER MANUFACTURING SHOES CLOSE OF LABOURER WORKING ON SHOE VARIOUS OF LABOURER WORKING ON SHOE SOLES HANI BIN JADEED SHOWING HIS SHOE PRODUCTS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HANI BIN JADEED, SAUDI SHOE FACTORY OWNER, SAYING: "Thank God, I am proud that I have achieved success and made U+200BU+200Bmy mark in the labour market, I advise my young brothers to go into the field and take the initiative and they will persevere and achieve a success story as I have." VARIOUS OF TWO LABOURERS HAND-MAKING PART OF THE SHOE SOLE OF SHOE STAMPED WITH THE FACTORY LOGO (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) DR. ABDULAZIZ AL MUTAIRI, DIRECTOR OF THE GENERAL MANAGER OF THE CENTENNIAL FUND, SAYING: "We are looking to increase awareness of the importance of promoting the culture of employment. The culture of employment is an important change on the economic level in the Kingdom and at the level of social development, because it's at the centre of the economy." VARIOUS OF LABOURER PREPARING THE SHOES FOR SHIPPING
- Embargoed: 17th February 2012 12:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Economy
- Reuters ID: LVA6SEMLRGHPDUW6CPNPL4HK3GZH
- Story Text: Saudi Arabia is anxious to get its burgeoning youth population working and is spearheading a program of 'Saudisation' to promote jobs for Saudi nationals that have usually gone to foreign workers.
As part of a drive to encourage its citizens to take jobs and tackle the social pressure that comes with unemployment, Saudi Arabia established a charity in July 2004 with a royal charter to help young Saudis achieve financial independence by helping them start their own businesses.
The Centennial Fund award was this year handed to a Saudi woman who has been deaf since birth. She received tens of thousands of votes to win the people's choice award.
"She is saying that, thank God, she's been able to hire five Saudi women, and work has been going well with the beauty salon and the sewing. She says it has been a success because God helps those who help others," said Manal's father, translating his daughter's sign language.
Saudi voters flocked to support Manal al Azoori and celebrate her achievements in setting up a successful beauty salon and tailors. Manal employs many staff at her business in the city of Jeddah, and was able start up in business thanks to the support of the Centennial Fund.
"She was looking for a job and did not find one, that's why she started her own project. She has employed Saudi and non-Saudi girls. With the help of God and the award today in Riyadh honouring us, God willing, she will have more success," Manal's father told Reuters.
The Centennial Fund is the Saudi division of Youth Business International (YBI), a global network of independent non-profit initiatives helping young people to start and grow their own business and create employment. Britain's Prince Charles is the president of the YBI and was in Riyadh to present the award to Manal.
The award is one of the ways Saudi Arabia is trying to encourage greater employment amongst nationals. A jobless rate of around 10.5 percent is a pressing issue for the country, as the Saudi population grows at an average 2 percent every year, five times the rate of the developed world.
Despite 16 years of efforts to promote "Saudisation", nationals account for a mere 10 percent of private sector employees, as firms favour labourers from Asia willing to work long hours for lower salaries, or well-paid foreign experts.
"I heard about the Centennial Fund and applied to request funds. I got moral support from them, not only financially, but they supported me until I got the funding and thankfully started the project. I consider it a success story for me and I'm proud like any other successful young Saudi," said Hani Bin Jadeed, a Saudi shoe factory owner.
"I advise my young brothers to go into the field and take the initiative and they will persevere and achieve a success story as I have," he added.
Despite its massive oil wealth -- Saudi Arabia owns a record $468 billion in foreign assets -- the country has found it hard to trim unemployment. That is because of an outdated school system focused on religion producing graduates without the skills to compete for private sector jobs, a shortage of cushy government jobs and companies preferring cheaper and skilled imported labour. Many Saudis including graduates shun many menial jobs done by the large expatriate labour force.
"We are looking to increase awareness of the importance of promoting the culture of employment. The culture of employment is an important change on the economic level in the Kingdom and at the level of social development, because it's at the centre of the economy," said Dr. Abdulaziz al Mutairi, Director of the General Manager of the Centennial Fund.
Facing an increasingly younger and larger population, the world's No. 1 oil exporter is spending an estimated $130 billion, or nearly 30 percent of its annual economic output, in government handouts to quell any grievances that could result in a challenge to the conservative kingdom's status quo.
Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and protests sweeping through neighbouring Bahrain, Oman and Yemen, have emboldened those seeking change in the kingdom with minor sporadic protests.
The Saudi Labour Ministry planned to hire 1,000 inspectors to enforce an updated system of quotas for Saudi employment in private companies, which classifies firms by how they fulfil the rules and sets penalties for laggards. However, analysts have cast doubt over whether authorities would be able to effectively monitor some 1.2 million registered businesses in the kingdom, especially smaller ones.
Over the years, companies found a number of ways to circumvent Saudisation rules, including paying off Saudis, who stay at home, or outsourcing some jobs to fulfil the quotas.
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