(MENAFN - Arab News) The Ministry of Labor has embarked on an initiative to link the government's support to private companies in accordance with the percentage of Saudization they have achieved, according to a ministry official.
Muhammad Ikhawan, adviser to the minister of labor, said a report on the issue would be presented to the Supreme Economic Council, the Kingdom's apex body in economic matters, as this matter is beyond the ministry's jurisdiction, Al-Eqtisadiah business daily reported.
Addressing a seminar, organized by the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies here, Ikhawan also unveiled the ministry's plans to tap into the vast employment opportunities in the Kingdom's booming construction sector for jobless Saudis by changing the existing traditional pattern of building construction.
"Saudi youths are generally averse to taking up construction jobs on sites. If these youths are provided with opportunities to build components or units of buildings at factories and then assemble them on sites, they will definitely come forward to take up such jobs," he said, adding the ministry is going ahead with this initiative in cooperation with the specialists in civil engineering from King Abdulaziz University.
Ikhawan told the audience the ministry is giving top priority to address the unemployment problem. "The latest official statistical figures showed that there are 500,000 jobless Saudis. However, the number of young Saudi men and women who applied for Hafiz unemployment assistance reached 1.5 million," he said, adding this figure also included some employed Saudis who are in search of better career prospects.
Ikhawan spelled out the government's measures aimed at addressing the unemployment problem. These include privatization of public utility services, implementation of e-governance programs and increasing public-private partnerships.
Referring to the major reasons for unemployment in the Kingdom, Ikhawan said: "Availability of cheap foreign labor is the major cause. The academic and professional incompetence of Saudi graduates to take up various trades and their inability to compete with foreigners is the second major factor," he said, adding that the major boom being witnessed in the Kingdom also contributed toward aggravating unemployment.
"The Kingdom lacks qualified Saudis to fill the huge number of job opportunities in the real estate and construction sectors after the government started implementing mega infrastructure projects in various regions. This forces the authorities concerned to hire foreign labor to carry out the projects on time," he said.
Ikhawan noted that there are about 6 million foreigners working in the Kingdom. "The ministry is striving to implement a strategy based on gradual replacement of the foreign work force with Saudis. We are also keen on providing education and training to young Saudis in a way enabling them to take up jobs in the employment market," he added.