Labor Minister Adel Fakeih yesterday disclosed that there are about 448,000 unemployed Saudi men and women  in a country that hosts 8.4 million foreign workers .
Addressing the fourth HR Forum at Jeddah Hilton, he said more than 1.3 million unemployed Saudi men and women have benefited from the Hafiz program, citing a report issued last Ramadan.
He emphasized the need for creating more job opportunities for the increasing number of Saudi graduates , especially in the private sector where the percentage of Saudi workers remains between 2 and 10. About 6.9 million expatriates work in the private sector.
Speaking about long-term plans to fight unemployment, the minister said it includes review of the country’s educational and training system to meet labor market needs.
“Support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in coordination with related ministries is another strategy,” he said, adding that his ministry’s initiatives required the support of other ministries and departments.
Referring to short-term solutions, Fakeih said the ministry would continue to facilitate Saudization of jobs in the private sector by replacing expatriates with Saudis.
“We’ll set up a database of Saudi job seekers and develop appropriate systems to get them employed,” he said.
He also disclosed plans to develop the Nitaqat system, track down companies that violate labor regulations, combat illegal cover-up businesses, deport illegal workers, develop money transfer systems, protect salaries and raise the cost of employing expatriates.
“We’ll help Saudi job seekers acquire suitable employment after providing them with the necessary training,” the minister said.
He said the ministry would establish strategic partnership with private companies and international institutes. The ministry will also modernize the women’s work law, Fakeih said while disclosing plans to expand job opportunities for women.
He also spoke about the achievements of the Nitaqat system, which was instrumental in providing employment to more than 300,000 Saudi men and women in less than a year.
“About 86 percent of job seekers registered with the Hafiz program are women. About 29 percent of them hold university degrees while less than five percent of the registered among men are university graduates,” he pointed out.
Most women want to work in the Education Department while most men prefer to work in government departments. He sought the cooperation of related government departments to facilitate employment of women and their investments. “We would like to create job opportunities for women in new areas.”
Fakeih said the ministry would coordinate with its strategic partners including private firms, chambers of commerce and industry and training and employment organizations to find more jobs for Saudis.
He said the ministry would support new employment mechanisms by licensing recruitment companies, leasing workers and setting up a job monitoring center and activating roles of private employment offices.