Ports are the latest target in a nationwide initiative to localise jobs in a bid to reduce unemployment among Saudi nationals.
Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani), in cooperation with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD), has concluded three localisation initiatives with companies operating at King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam.
The plan for Saudi Global Ports Company, Zamil Offshore Services Company and Saudi Development & Export Services Company (SDES) is to localise 39 job fields.
According to Saudi Press Agency, the initiative includes the localisation of more than 900 jobs, with the number gradually increasing during 2021.
It will contribute to qualifying and training Saudi cadres for key positions of supply chains within the kingdom’s ports to ensure business continuity.
Job creation is the biggest domestic challenge facing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he reshapes an economy long dependent on exported oil and imported labour.
Unemployment hit a record 15 percent last year, when Covid-19 set back the ambitious Vision 2030 plan to transform the conservative Islamic kingdom into a regional business and tourism hub.
Saudi workers are now visible everywhere, delivering packages, serving espresso and moving oil rigs. Multiple firms with foreign employees trapped abroad by Covid-related border closures said they’d accelerated plans to hire locals.
In the third quarter, when the economy shrank 4.6 percent, the number of Saudis employed in the private sector rose by more than 80,000.
While many countries are struggling with joblessness due to Covid-19, Saudi Arabia’s problem dates back decades, to when the first influx of expatriates arrived to develop a nascent oil industry.
Foreigners now comprise a third of the 34 million-strong population.
The government is the main employer of Saudis – a model it can’t afford to sustain – while the rest of the economy relies on cheap labour from Asian and other Arab countries.
Authorities have long enforced quotas and incentives to channel more citizens into the private sector, a process dubbed “Saudisation,” but the results haven’t matched population growth.
To keep unemployment steady, the kingdom must create 150,000 jobs per year over the next decade, according to Bloomberg Economics.
So far, the overall labour market is shrinking as various policies push foreigners out faster than Saudis are hired.
Source: Arabian Business