Counter-saudization? An inside look into what's driving Saudis to work abroad
Several factors are behind migration of people to other countries, the chief reason being the chance to live in a country where the quality of life is significantly better and job opportunities are plentiful.
In the Kingdom and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, millions of immigrants are employed in various industries. In a recent trend, a small yet growing number of Saudis are shunning the Kingdom and accepting jobs in other GCC states. Young Saudis are drawn by better-paying jobs, quality work experience and lifestyle changes.
According to several reports obtained by Makkah daily, the number of Saudi nationals working in government sectors in GCC countries and registered in the unified system for extending insurance protection stood at 3,671 at the end of 2012. Kuwait got the lion’s share with 3,110 Saudi employees, followed by 270 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 245 in Qatar, 35 in Bahrain and 11 in Oman.
Saudi nationals employed in the private sector throughout the GCC stood at 1,196 employees in Kuwait, 222 in Bahrain, 119 in Qatar, 114 in the UAE and 39 in Oman.
Saudi Arabia is the largest GCC country and attracts the greatest number of expatriate workers.
Makkah daily looked into the reasons why an increasing number of Saudis are choosing to work abroad, particularly in other GCC countries, instead of their own country.
Abdullah Al-Sulami, 24, said job opportunities for fresh graduates in the Kingdom are limited, with most companies requiring applicants to have experience.
Al-Sulami, who graduated recently, wants to work in other GCC member states for a few years, gain some job experience and then eventually return to the Kingdom to find a suitable job.
“The offers for recent graduates here are limited as well as the financial returns. A majority of companies require experience. This has led me to seriously consider moving to gain experience. I’m keen to get a job in a nearby country so I can visit my family frequently,” he said.
Laila Al-Nasser, a 35-year-old teacher, said she is looking for work abroad to escape the constant pressure of family commitments. “I believe work and stability abroad will provide me with a different social lifestyle in which I will be able to provide some privacy to my family away from all of the exaggerated family commitments and ties here in the Kingdom.”
Journalist Buthainah Al-Nasr said she left the Kingdom for Lebanon to obtain a higher standard of education, improve her social life and financial prospects.
“The reasons differ from one person to another. There are some who seek to improve their standard of living by accepting a better-paying job. Others seek a different lifestyle that is not available in their local environment. There are others who want to escape from a social or family situation that is causing psychological pressure,” she said.
Al-Nasr added that there are no requirements for Saudi nationals to work in GCC countries except that the work should be legal.
Saudis working in government or private sector jobs are not obligated to obtain a permit from the Kingdom.
Nabil Al-Mu’allimi has been working in Dubai for the past nine years. He said it is hard to find jobs in the Kingdom that offer quality experience but those who have the necessary experience are paid better than their counterparts in other GCC states.
“I left the Kingdom and accepted a job offer abroad to gain experience. Jobs in the Kingdom pay better provided a person has experience. I know many Saudis who are working abroad to gain that experience. They also want to live a different lifestyle. There are more working women than men and they work hard and compete in many fields. Most of the fields that attract Saudi nationals abroad include banks, medical field, information technology and telecommunications,” he said.
Al-Mu’allimi said prior to 2009, there was no system in place for Saudis working abroad to deduct a certain percentage of their salaries to pay for both personal insurance and pension funds. This created a crisis, which was solved later through the unified Gulf insurance extension system.
As for the interaction of Saudi nationals working abroad with Saudi embassies, the activities they organize and the services they provide, Al-Nasr said every Saudi national is required to register his/her passport, home address and place of work at the embassy. All registered citizens receive SMS messages on all events and activities held by their local embassy.
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