(MENAFN - Arab News) More than a million Saudis are benefiting from the Hafiz unemployment program launched in 2011.
On the occasion of the seventh anniversary of King Abdullah's accession to throne, officials from various sectors and Hafiz beneficiaries said that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is a fair, smart and generous king.
They added that his heart is with his people and that he is the first leader in the Middle East who launched an initiative to support the unemployed financially.
The Hafiz program, which pays unemployed Saudis SR2,000 (533) a month for up to one year, was announced by King Abdullah during the Arab uprisings last spring and introduced in late 2011.
Saud Sultan, executive manger of the social responsibility committee at Jeddah Chamber for Commerce and Industry (JCCI), stated that Hafiz helps in solving problems for many Saudi families, and shows the king's wisdom in alleviating unemployment and poverty.
"When the Kingdom's unemployment rate became higher, King Abdullah used his wisdom to create a program that enabled Saudis to receive money on a monthly basis for a temporary period while looking for jobs," he said.
"Due to my position at the JCC,I I can ensure that Hafiz plays a prominent role in supporting youth - both men and women - as it also helps push youth into the labor market."
According to reports issued by the Ministry of Labor, joblessness costs the government SR5.5 billion a year as around 90 percent of working Saudis are employed by the government, while 90 percent of jobs in private companies are filled by around 8 million foreigners.
"King Abdullah's generosity pushed him to create a brilliant program called Hafiz. This program is actually a database that gathers the names of unemployed Saudis who need money. Then after launching this program, he launched another one called 'Liqaat' that brings both job seekers and employers together.
Hafiz is considered the first foundation stone that defines the number of unemployed, then supports them financially with a monthly stipend of around SR3,000 and gives them the opportunity to meet employers," said Mohamed Al-Harbi, director of the human resources center at JCCI.
"I believe that our king embodies two important elements that should be inherent in each president or king. These elements are smartness and kindness. His kindness pushed him to use his smartness and create Hafiz to support the unemployed," said Al-Harbi.
Al-Harbi said Liqaat is the second step after Hafiz. Liqaat received about 9,000 applications from jobless Saudis with different levels of academic performance.
"Hence, we hired so far 5,000 Saudis because of Liqaat. The offered salaries are between SR3,000 to SR5,000."
Nora Al-Asheikh, ex-director of the supervision office of the Ministry of Social Affairs in Jeddah, said King Abdullah's generosity is behind the idea of Hafiz.
"Launching Hafiz and many other programs is the best proof of the King's smart generosity. When we think deeply about Hafiz, we discover that it is a program that helps unemployed financially. In addition, the Ministry of Labor pushed private and governmental companies to gather and set the amount of vacancies to hire Saudis with salaries not less than SR3,000 a month," she said.
Arab News spoke to a number of Hafiz beneficiaries who claimed the initiative changed their lives and increased their enthusiasm to look for jobs. "Our king has a very kind heart and refuses to see Saudis suffering like citizens from other nationalities. Such an initiative proved his willingness to be a fair judge over the Saudi population," said Abdulaziz Al-Ghamdi, an unemployed Saudi who has been looking for a job for two years.
"Launching Hafiz was a necessity as it became too difficult to reduce unemployment by creating public sector jobs. We noticed that last year's revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen were blamed by some on high youth unemployment. We are happy and proud to have a king who really cares about his people."
Widad Al-Khthlan, a Saudi graduate from King Abdulaziz University, said she wished presidents of other countries had the same morals and values as King Abdullah.
"Till today I have never seen such a king who really thinks about the poor and weak before thinking about the rich people," she said.
"After I graduated from university I was looking for a job for three years, but I didn't find anything suitable. When King Abdullah launched Hafiz earlier this year, I started receiving the monthly payment. I have been involved in programs launched by JCCI to help me and others to be more qualified and ready to work in the job market."