THE SAUDI PLAN TO ERADICATE UNEMPLOYMENT AND BOOST THE PRIVATE SECTOR

Well into its fourth year of execution, the Saudivision is slightly interrupted by an unexpected global crisis, impeding progress. However, the Saudi government has reacted quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic, not only to mitigate the effect of the virus outbreak on its private sector, but also to keep the Saudivision on track. The Vision 2030 detailed a series of plans to reshape the Saudi economy, image and workforce. Originally reliant on a foreign labor force, the Kingdom has managed to strategize its assets into ultimately eliminating Saudi unemployment. Its young population and successful education system are great advantages, but they shaped up a culture of unemployment prior to 2016. To address this issue, Saudization was born, weaponizing the promising population stats and the growing education system against unemployment issues. Among the Vision’s plans were also big moves towards education and many other fields in Saudi Arabia, and with the empowerment and support of women in work, the Kingdom is looking at a new workforce. 

With Saudization, corporations are required to hire a number of Saudi nationals to maintain compliance. The concept may have seemed slightly complicated, but thanks to the heavy marketing campaigns, digitizing of government platforms and a stern governing of regulations, the Saudization scheme found great success in a short period of time. The move did not come from a single rule, enforced without support and guidance towards the private sector; programs and initiatives were launched to help nationals acquire jobs, and offered great social insurance practices through GOSI (The General Organization for Social Insurance), offering annuities, work hazards insurances and unemployment insurances (SANED). Digitizing the entire government system helped employers and employees equally keep track of the fast-changing work culture in the Kingdom. Today, doing business in Saudi Arabia is easier than ever. 

Digitizing said government sectors proved beneficial during today’s pandemic crisis, especially given the quick reaction on behalf of the government, which launched a SR120 billion stimulus package to mitigate COVID-19 impact on the private sector. Today, HR outsourcing, shared services and IT outsourcing are concepts relatively new to some, but in the Kingdom, they are a way of business. Prior to lockdown, the Kingdom announced a merger which birthed its Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, further embedding the importance of HR and shared services among its private sector. 

WHAT DOES THE WORKFORCE IN SAUDI ARABIA LOOK LIKE TODAY? 

Today’s workforce is an array of diverse workers performing jobs across the Kingdom. Expats and nationals both offer men and women to the labor force, and employees registered at GOSI are protected by its social insurance policy. A wave of female participants came along with Saudization and its various programs to support women in work. Working remotely in the Kingdom was made much easier thanks to the preexisting internet-based system. The HR Fund Hadaf also offered programs and tools for remote work, training and an overall plan to maintain employment rates in the private sector. The workforce is likely to continue growing through and even past the COVID-19 situation, as the private sector itself is still abloom. This comes from a serious effort and a series of initiatives dedicated to maintain normalcy to the best possible extent. Foreign workers are also a human resources asset that the Saudi government values; in order to mitigate impact, these workers are now transferred freely between firms with smaller workloads and others under high demand. This move was made possible through the Ajeer platform. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

The COVID-19 era will forever be deemed as one of great uncertainty. However, Saudi Arabia has maintained a customer confidence rate that placed it first worldwide during the month of March 2020. The Kingdom is likely to have less to recover from than most other G20 economies. Given the facts, this crisis inevitably hinders the Saudivision plans, but the private sector there is at a better place than most. By 2030, unemployment rates will decrease significantly from 11.6% to as low as 7%. While only time can tell, the Saudi Arabian workforce certainly maintains its positive work culture, strong HR policies and diversity.