World Bulletin / News Desk
Saudi Arabia, grappling with chronic youth unemployment, has created 380,000 new jobs in 10 months by requiring private firms to employ Saudis, Labour Minister Adel al-Fakeih said, the Saudi Gazette reported on Monday.
"This figure is 20 times what had been previously achieved over the past five years before Nitaqat (the main jobs programme) was introduced," the English-language daily quoted him as saying.
In January, Fakeih said the Middle East's largest economy needed to create 3 million jobs for Saudi nationals by 2015 and 6 million by 2030, partly through "Saudi-ising" work now done by foreigners.
Youth unemployment was seen as one of the main drivers of last year's unrest which shook much of the Arab world, but bypassed Saudi Arabia, where King Abdullah announced a $110 billion package of benefits to defuse any potential discontent.
Nitaqat is a quota system imposing minimum numbers of Saudi employees on companies depending on their size and sector.
It is part of wider reforms aimed at getting more Saudis into private-sector jobs in a country where nine in 10 private company employees are expatriates, while 90 percent of Saudi workers are employed by the state.
Some employers have criticised Nitaqat, saying it could raise their costs or disrupt their operations, and that qualified Saudi workers are not always readily available.
Fakeih's comments suggested the government remained committed to the scheme.
Officially the kingdom's unemployment rate is 10.5 percent, but that figure does not include the large numbers of working-age Saudis not counted as part of the labour force.
According to recent government figures, the labour force participation rate, meaning people who are in jobs or who say they are looking for work, is 36.4 percent, about half the global average, economists have said.
The world's top oil exporter announced last year it was introducing an unemployment benefit of 2,000 rials ($535) a month, payable for up to a year, for applicants who showed they were looking for jobs or undergoing training. In March the government said over 1 million people were receiving it.
Fakeih was quoted on Monday as saying that people who failed to hold down successive jobs or did not pass the training would instead receive a monthly incapacity benefit.
"Youths who fail the training and employment programme will be transferred to the category of unable to work, and will qualify for the 800 rial incapacity benefit," the paper quoted him as saying. In Saudi Arabia, incapacity benefit is for life.
"The borders have been closed for traffic temporarily.. It's a precautionary move.. due to the violent events on the other side," the interior ministry said.
"Now is the time for the international community to insist on a better deal," he said in a televised statement in English.
The air strike hit Zintan, whose forces have sided with Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni's government against the rival administration set up by forces who took over Tripoli in the summer during factional fighting in Libya.
With talks to cinch a deal on the horizon according to Iran, France says there is not enough to go ahead for a deal just yet
Abdollahian and Ban spoke on the sidelines of an international conference in Kuwait aimed at addressing the humanitarian crisis in Syria, IRNA reported.
United Nations experts reported to the U.N. Security Council, thousands of people from some 100 countries in Syria and Iraq, there were also 6,500 in Afghanistan and hundreds more in Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and Somalia.
The operation by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim states is aimed at stopping the Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh winning control of the country and at reinstating Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement, nuclear talks to merit staying until Wednesday.
The negotiators ended talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne in the early hours of Wednesday and said they would reconvene later in the day, with Iran and Russia expressing optimism that an initial agreement was within reach.
The Mazraq camp for displaced people near Haradh was struck on Monday, humanitarian workers said. Some 200 people were wounded, dozens of them seriously, the International Organization for Migration said.
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Tuesday pledged $500 million in humanitarian aid to help ease the crisis in Syria.
Syrian state television put the number killed at 44 and said 21 others had been wounded in the attack on Mabouja, a 60-km (40 mile) drive east of Hama. A Syrian military source said the army had repelled the assault on Tuesday.
A strike early on Tuesday near Sanaa airport blew a large crater in a group of five houses, witnesses said. There were no casualties, suggesting the buildings had been empty since a deadly raid in the same area last week.
Aiming to seal preliminary deal by Tuesday midnight with diplomats fear opportunity will be lost if no deal today
Explosions and heavy gunfire was heard in the Shida and al-Hisama districts of Saada province and near the town of Haradh in neighbouring Hajja province.
fState TV says tons of food and medical supplies have been airlifted to Shiite militant group.