(MENAFN - Arab News) A World Economic Forum roundtable co-hosted by Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) has ended with a call for action and radical change in the region's mindset to create more jobs for the nationals.
Now more than ever, it is critical "to match employment, entrepreneurship and education prospects with the aspirations of young population" in the Arab world including Saudi Arabia, said Labour Minister Adel Fakeih, while speaking at the day-long roundtable.
Enumerating fresh initiatives over the past several months, Fakeih said the Ministry of Labor had "launched 12 initiatives for women employment."
To this end, he said Hafiz program was a support program for job seekers, more for women as they represent a large segment on the rolls of the Hafiz program. He said that this major initiative provides job search support, job matching and basic training to more than a million young job seekers in the Kingdom.
The roundtable at SABIC Academy was attended by a number of high-ranking Saudi officials, WEF officials, top executives and newsmen.
Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Thunayan Al-Saud, chairman of Royal Commission for Jubail & Yanbu, who is also the chairman of SABIC board, delivered opening remarks.
This was followed by an interactive session on competitiveness and job creation in the Arab world.
Prominent among those, who took part in different sessions of the event included Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Thunayan Al-Saud, chairman of Royal Commission for Jubail & Yanbu and SABIC's chairman, Muhammad Suleiman Al-Jasser, minister of economy and Planning, Borge Brende, WEF's managing director for government relations; Ali bin Nasser Al-Ghafis, TVTC governor, and SABIC Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Mohammed H. Al-Mady.
Referring to the need to exert more efforts for job creation in the Arab world, especially in Saudi Arabia, Fakeih said the government's vision for Hafiz was to host integrated services for job seekers, comprising job counseling, training and match-making with employers.
A major theme during the roundtable was the need for an increased readiness to take risks and less concern about the chances of failure. This has clearly become a key in the decisions taken by government, industry and civil society in the Arab world.
In his speech at the roundtable, Al-Ghafis said: "The human resources development and employment issues are extremely complex within the context of a single country and it gets more complicated when addressing them for a cluster of countries such as the Arab world."
To this end, he said the population of the Arab world was estimated at around 360 million people, and it is by no means a unified economic entity.
"Even though, most of the Arab countries spend a considerable amount of their GDP on education, public spending on technical and vocational training is much lower than international benchmarks," said the TVTC chief.
He pointed out that Saudi Arabia spent about 6.9 percent of the GDP on education, which is higher than the OECD average.
"But, we under spend by more than 70 percent on technical and vocational training," he noted.
Al-Ghafis said the imbalance in spending will always be a main cause of mismatch between labor markets and education.
To respond to these apparent and urgent imperatives, the World Economic Forum and other organizations should come forward to address national, regional and international issues confronting job creation.
SABIC, on its part, play its role as a major conglomerate in the Kingdom, said Al-Mady, while thanking everyone for attending the event.
He emphasized that the region needs more courageous investment. It is not that the region doesn't have money, it is how we leverage and use it, said another participant.
"The Arab world today faces a clear imperative to accelerate job creation to ensure more inclusive growth and robust human development," said a press statement released by SABIC.
Despite steady economic and real GDP growth in many countries of the region, the rapidly expanding youth population has generated a compelling urgency for governments and employers to address unemployment and support an ecosystem conducive for entrepreneurship, said the press statement.
The roundtable offered a unique opportunity for employers to discuss concrete ways in which they collaborate with government and civil society to drive employment and foster entrepreneurship.
The objective of the discussion was to surface concrete models for large employers, which can drive job creation gains in the Kingdom and the larger Arab world, both in the coming year and long term.
A special emphasis was given to policies fostering entrepreneurship and suitable collaboration frameworks between governments, academia and cross-industry cooperation.
SABIC today ranks among the world's top petrochemical companies.
The company is among the world's market leaders in the production of polyethylene, polypropylene and other advanced thermoplastics, glycols, methanol and fertilizers.
SABIC recorded a net profit of SR29.24 billion in 2011. Sales revenues for 2011 totaled SR189.90 billion, while total assets stood at SR332.78 billion at the end of 2011.The company, which operates in more than 40 countries across the world with more than 40,000 employees worldwide, manufactures on a global scale in Saudi Arabia, the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.