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Rare Protest Occurs as Local Saudis Ask For Public Sector Jobs

Saudi Arabia : 30 August 2010

Around 200 out of work nationals with university degrees were involved in a protest in Riyadh to demand government jobs be handed out by the state.

Saudi Arabia does not have an elected parliament and runs on an absolute monarchy structure where protests and other public displays of opposition are not generally tolerated.

Levels of unemployment climbed to 10.5 per cent in the previous year based on official figures.  Job creation for the quickly expanding native population that has risen above 18 million is an enormous challenge for the nation’s longstanding leadership.

The local media displayed photos of the protestors, who had graduated from state universities and were anchored outside the education ministry buildings demanding employment as Arabic language instructors and teachers.

One protestor carried a slogan reading “Enough injustice” as they stood outside the government building.

The official population of 27.1 million includes Saudi nationals who receive some social benefits.  Those benefits fall below the amounts that a selection of Gulf oil producing nations like Qatar and Kuwait grant to their natives, even though their national populations are smaller.

A large amount of Saudi nationals must find employment in the private sector just to get by, working as taxi drivers, in security or in various other lower paying jobs.

Saudi Arabia does not release figures on the employment situation in the Kingdom publically as this data can serve to highlight the gaps in wealth levels found in this, one of the globe’s wealthiest nations.

Even though Saudi Arabia enjoys widespread oil resources they struggle to create employment for natives.  This is mainly because of a stale education system that puts more emphasis on religious training and less on essential job skills to assist in diversifying the oil-heavy economy that also has an overloaded public sector.

A local newspaper reported that the protestors had been unable to land a job in Saudi after university graduation, according to the spokesman for the group, Nayef al-Tamimi.

Al-Tamimi was quoted noting his surprise that even though there was a need for more teaching staff, the ministry had little opportunities available and no interest in opening more.

The ministry of education did release a statement in the local media saying that the ministry had no authority over hiring but simply worked with the demand created by the amount of teacher positions allocated to them.  No ministry spokesperson could be reached for further comments.

Since gaining office in 2005 King Abdullah has been working to implement major changes in the outdated legal and education systems.  Those reforms have been blocked by the bureaucracy that is controlled by Saudi’s religious elite.

Officials supporting Abdullah and his reforms worry that those unemployed young people will be drawn into militancy if the situation does not change.

Andrew Reid, Staff Writer, Gulf Jobs Market News
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