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Abdulrahman Alsheail On The Increasing Attractiveness Of Saudi’s Labour Market

Abdulrahman Alsheail is the Director-General of Human Resources at the Institute of Public Administration in Saudi Arabia. He’s also a consultant, said that his country is seeking to build an attractive labour market, and the changes that happened in Saudi Arabia has made the country one of the most attractive places to work.

He added that the labour market in Saudi Arabia, like other countries of the world, has been affected by the repercussions of Covid-19 and that the current plans and initiatives launched as part of Saudi 2030 Vision have contributed significantly to giving the Saudi labour market the freedom of supply and demand mechanisms, and the necessary flexibility to attract and retain global professionals.

Alsheail revealed many details and indicators of the labour market, women’s empowerment and their economic participation, and the results of the initiatives launched by Saudi Arabia.

How do you assess the overall situation of Saudi human resources now in light of Saudi Vision 2030?

The current plans and initiatives launched within the ‘Saudi 2030 Vision’ have undoubtedly contributed significantly to giving the Saudi labour market the freedom of supply and demand mechanisms and the necessary flexibility for success.

Moreover, the local labour market has become attractive for Saudi nationals and foreign professionals.

Has the Saudi labour market recovered from the effects of the Covid-19 or is it still suffering from some of its repercussions?

As is well known, the labour market in Saudi Arabia, like other countries of the world, has been affected by the repercussions of Covid-19. However, with the active management of the pandemic, the significant support provided to the private sector, and initiatives that have lifted the burden on employers, the private sector and corporations have been able to pass through the more significant negative repercussions of the pandemic.

Things started to improve gradually. Now the business is back to normal, and we are starting to see recruitment ads of Saudi companies looking for global professionals.

In your view, what are the recent changes that have affected the Saudi labour market?

There are many initiatives that have positively affected the Saudi labour market, perhaps the most prominent of which are:

The initiative to improve the contractual relationship of non-Saudi workers, the wage protection program, as well as amendments to legislation, rules, and regulations surrounding the empowerment of women.

With renewed focus on the equal right of citizens to work without discrimination there is a constant quest to update rules and regulations. This is to keep up with the current state of the world and its reflections and bring forth a strengthening labour market.

What about the work environment, what’s new in it?

We fully believe that the efficiency, attractiveness, and productivity of the Saudi labour market is linked to the working environment in general. That is why the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development in Saudi has launched many initiatives and programs aimed at maintaining this.

Some include the Wage Protection Programme and the National Labour Market Strategy that have studied the working patterns that the labour market needs now and in the future.

The necessary legislation and incubator platforms have been created, and modern working patterns have been activated through specialised online platforms: The Freelancing Platform, Flexible Working Platform, and the Remote Work Platform, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll always endeavour to find initiatives and projects aimed at improving the working environment and making the Saudi market more attractive and productive.

What is Saudi’s most prominent government efforts in enterprise support programs and initiatives?

Regarding enterprise support programs and initiatives, the General Authority for SMEs “Monsha’at” was established in 2016, and its objectives are to organise, support, develop and sponsor the SME sector in accordance with international best practices. This is to increase the productivity of these enterprises and raise their contribution to the GDP from 20% to 35% by 2030.

“Monsha’at” is working to develop, implement, and support programs/projects to spread the culture and thought of self-employment, entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, and innovation. It also seeks to diversify sources of financial support for enterprises, stimulate bold capital sector initiatives, develop policies/standards to finance projects classified as SMEs. In addition it should provide administrative and technical support to enterprises in developing their management, technical and financial, marketing and human resources capabilities.

Concerning training, the Institute of Public Administration trains and develops public sector employees, and the Human Resources Development Fund “HRDF” qualifies the national workforce to work in the private sector through several stimulating programs and initiatives.

What are the indicators of women’s economic empowerment and managerial positions?

We have made sizeable leaps in Saudi, surging women’s economic participation in the labour market. The economic participation rate for Saudi females aged 15 and over was 33.5% by 2020, while women’s participation in the labour market doubled from 17% to 31.8%, exceeding the 2030 Vision target of 30%.

The proportion of women in middle and senior management positions was 30% in public and private sectors during 2020. Indicators also showed that the proportion of Saudi women in the civil service had risen to 41.02% by 2020.

What solutions and programs have been provided to retirees, and how successful are they?

Retirees have recently launched the “Taqdeer” program, which provides the services to retired and beneficiaries of Government Social Insurance. This can range from financing solutions, benefits, and commercial offers, utilising retirees’ experience whenever needed, volunteering for social responsibility and attending activities and social events.  For job seekers, there is a package of incentives and regulations to support job seekers, such as the Government Job Application Service “Jadara,” which aims to help citizens seeking employment in the public sector. The “TAQAT” program is suited for private-sector job seekers, and the “Hafiz” program for job seekers, which provides monthly financial allowances and training programs for job seekers to increase their capabilities and prepare them for the labour market.

Do these initiatives have a direct impact on the competitiveness of the Saudi labour market with the global labour markets and its ranking in international competitiveness indicators?

Yes, of course. These initiatives are one of the results of the national transformation 2030 program and vision, where they work to achieve radical reform in the labour market. This will reflect on the flexibility and attractiveness of the market and conform to the initiative to attract international companies to the Saudi Arabia. Hopefully this will improve flexibility and ease of workers’ movement, improving their contractual relationships and thereby raising the competitiveness of the labour market.

For the record, Saudi Arabia has climbed to 13th place in the Labour Market Efficiency Index according to the Global Competitiveness Report and has become a member of the Board of Directors of the International Labour Organisation. This reflects Saudi Arabia’s position and confidence in the organisation and its active role in decision-making and policy-building around international labour standards, which echoes the attractiveness of domestic and international investment in the Kingdom.

Developing a labour market strategy, how can Saudi Arabia improve its economy?

With the launch of these initiatives, the Kingdom has met the nine main pillars required by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to build an attractive labour market, representing the free movement of employment, and facilitating exit/return procedures to and from the country.

What are the most notable economic gains the Saudi economy has made from these initiatives?

These initiatives are aimed at developing and improving the working conditions and environments in all its components and have many positive economic implications, including:

The flexibility and development of the labour market, raising the productivity of the private sector, and raising the rate of attracting highly skilled professionals. We are already beginning to feel these positive effects, but their impact will increase.

It will become evident in the coming days, hopefully. In the fourth quarter of 2021, GDP increased by 6.7% compared to the same quarter of 2020, and compared to the third quarter of 2021, with a growth of 1.6%.

You said that one of the initiatives that had a positive impact on the labour market was the ‘Improving Contractual Relationship’ initiative, which had been implemented a year earlier. What were the most prominent aspects and services of that initiative?

The initiative included three key services: free movement, exit/entry, and final exit to and from the country. In detail, they are as follows:

First: Career Mobility: A service that regulates job transfers from one company to another.

Second: Exit and Entry Visa Service: This service allows non-Saudi workers to apply for exit and entry visa online.

Third: Final Exit Service: This service allows the non-Saudi worker to apply for the final exit visa online for departure after the end of the contract.

How do you see the impact of this initiative specifically on the Saudi labour market?

This initiative is part of supporting the vision of the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development in building an attractive labour market. Empowering and developing human capital, and developing the work environment, which increases the attractiveness of the Saudi labour market to international companies and makes the Saudi market one of the most attractive labour markets in the region.

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