Experts have found a number of obstacles facing the employment of 20,000 Saudi pharmacists in pharmacies across the Kingdom.
This comes at a time when the Ministry of Labor and Social Development is planning to stop recruitment of foreign pharmacists to solve the problem.
“One of the main obstacles is pharmacy owners’ refusal to employ Saudi graduates,” said Dr. Khaled Bahashwan, dean of the pharmacy college at Taibah University in Madinah.
Meager salary and benefits are other obstacles that stand in the way of employment of Saudi pharmacists, Al-Madina newspaper reported on Sunday.
“Our graduates are well-qualified and the investors must give them priority and provide them with attractive working conditions,” Bahashwan said.
About 90 percent of foreign pharmacists are from African countries while 10 percent hail from Asian countries, he said, adding that Saudi pharmacists can work not only at public and private pharmacies but also at pharmaceutical factories. They can also engage in marketing.
Dr. Abrar Thabit from King Abdulaziz University spoke about other obstacles facing Saudi pharmacists such as long working hours in the private sector that reach 12 hours. Sometimes they have to work in morning shifts for a week and some other times in the evening shift.
“This is not the case with government pharmacies,” she pointed out. “As a result, Saudis are not interested to work at private pharmacies especially due to the long hours.”
The job of a pharmacist is not just supplying medicines but to provide necessary advice to patients and warn them against using certain drugs without a doctor’s prescription.
Fahd Al-Harbi, a pharmacology graduate, expressed concern that investors would reduce the salary of pharmacists with the large number of graduates seeking employment. “The ministry should fix a minimum salary,” he added.
Anas Zarie, an expert in the pharmacy sector and a member of the central committee to develop health services, estimated the number of licensed pharmacies in the Kingdom between 8,000 and 9,000.
“These pharmacies can accommodate 20,000 pharmacists in the next five years,” he said.
The problem is investors want to reduce their costs by employing foreigners at low salaries while Saudi pharmacists seek stable jobs with good salaries and benefits, he explained.
Hamam Wali, another graduate, spoke about some pharmacies asking their workers to market certain medicines, which she said goes against the professional ethics.
Amjad Abdul Mueen, also a pharmacology graduate, said an assistant pharmacist receives a monthly salary of SR3,000 to SR4,000. At the same time, some foreign pharmacists receive SR10,000 and more.
He urged pharmacies to follow the ministry’s Saudization instructions.
Al-Madina contacted the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to get its comment on unemployment among Saudi pharmacy graduates but it did not respond.
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In a previous statement, the ministry’s spokesman Khalid Abalkhail highlighted efforts to Saudize jobs in the pharmacy sector despite many obstacles.
“In the past five years the Ministry of Health employed 14,188 pharmacists including 1,418 foreigners.”
Reports indicate that of the 25,119 pharmacists who work under the Health Ministry, only 22 percent are Saudis. Private hospitals employ 1,599 pharmacists while just 46 pharmacists work at medical cities, and 1,439 in other facilities including factories and warehouses.
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