In Year 1993 as I step Saudi Arabia for the first time, the echoing whispers of Saudization were the first I heard among many issues in the circles of the expatriate community.
Between 1995 and 2000, Saudization had been already the talk of the town, even before the appointment of the late Saudi Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, the father of the national strategy of Saudization. Though the rumored started to circulate among the Filipino community in Jeddah many expatriates in various nationalities shrugged off the idea and treated it as a mere hearsay because most expatriates at that time were employed in building and construction sector. Menial jobs such as laborer and construction workers often not the type of jobs the Saudis want to do.
As usual like rumors, that whispers started to wither into the horizon and expatriates realize it’s not a threat at all. Why? Because the jobs created were in the field of construction, trade, agriculture and service workers, which commonly occupied by expatriates. It was not until the late Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi was appointed as Saudi Labor Minister.
In 2000 again a rumor came out that the host country starts campaigning to trim down the number of foreign workers in the Kingdom which was estimated at 6 million of that year and 500,000 of those estimated figures were Filipinos.
Y2K was the year the government started to become serious on their crusade by wrapping out economic and labor policies emphasizing the creation of jobs among the Saudi populace. Alarmed by the bulging population of foreign workers, thus – the creation of the Seventh Development Plan for the year 2000-2004 which focuses more on economic diversification and a bigger role of the private sector in the Saudi economy and new jobs for Saudi nationals as well.
Al-Gosaibi focuses on modernization of the Ministry, creating a new women’s sector in the labor market. His agenda tackles issues such as unemployment of women and reducing the number of low-skilled foreign workers and training Saudis to take over expats jobs.
The late Labor Minister during the Jeddah Economic Forum in 2008 defended the Saudization policy enforced by his ministry, asserting that businesses and the media unfairly portray Saudi youth as lazy. “Saudi primary and secondary schools need to improve the teaching of English and technical skills in order to better prepare students for a globalized job market” he said.
Of course, the late Labor Minister is absolutely right, for my 20 years as an expat in this country which I already considered my second home, I personally do not agree that Saudis are not suited for the job that usually given to expatriates. I have worked with secretaries, messengers, drivers and ordinary office workers, they are just the same as what other nationalities are capable of doing. I have met Saudis in high level position, they are friendly, smart and I admit they are very professional to deal with and most of all Saudis are very kind people.
SAUDI ARAMCO the biggest oil and the world’s most valuable company was the one who first heed to the call of Saudization under Al-Gosaibi’s turf of leadership in the Labor Ministry. SAUDI ARAMCO as early as 2005 already pursued the Saudization initiatives to their independent contractor. The plan is to employ Saudi national “stage by stage” as their Saudization strategy dubbed as CCS (Corporate Contractors Saudization). The contractor on the other hand had no choice but obligated to meet the employment standard demands mandated by the oil company, the only way to be able to continue their business partnership with the company who owns the world’s largest oil field.
In order to do so, these contractors should see to it that by the Year 2015, Saudi nationals employed as skilled workers in their respective companies must consist of an 80 % workforce and cut down the number of expatriate workers to 20%. (Taken from Saudization planning-Saudi Aramco-CCS).
I realized that Saudi Aramco’s strategy may bring the Saudi nationalization program a success soon before the year 2020 arrives. However, in my opinion government owned corporations and private companies could not come up with the same result overnight not unless there will be a will of their own to seriously train Saudi nationals to menial job they hate to do.
Here comes the Nitaqat program under the now energetic Labor Minister Adel Fakeih. The Nitaqat itself is a challenge from both the government and their constituents. Implementing such crucial plan should be done gradually because the long term impact of a succession plan is to develop human capital. It can’t be denied that the consequences of rushing up to the objectives could be the same tool that could backfire to the long awaited success of Saudization. The existing approach of change should be done in a slow manner, but steadily and under a minimum speed that could come up into a smooth transition of knowledge transfer.
Now, the amnesty program of the Saudi government is obviously a part of Saudization strategy. The just recent mass deportation of undocumented expats and over stayer is in fact a cleansing process which could be an opportunity for Saudi nationals to learn the job vacated by expatriates.
Now, the reality of Saudization is no longer a whisper, it is finally occurring right under our noses. (BongA)