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.
'You Stink' campaign calls for broad-based movement against government impotence and corruption
UAE is a key partner in the Saudi-led coalition that in March launched air strikes against the Houthis
Iraqi security forces engage with armed group suspected of kidnapping 18 Turks
Russian president blames Western countries for 'imposing their own standards without considering the cultural, religious and national characteristics of the region’
'It is a symbolic thing but it is another step to solidify the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena'
Syrian State tv has claimed that Russian troops are on the ground boosting Assad's forces.
Kerry reassures Abbas US is deeply concerned about current developments in Palestinian situation
Country's former interim president says Tunisians must fullfil their duty, land helping hand for Syrians
International community's response to refugee crisis as not 'adequately shared or shouldered'
Iraqi PM Al-Abadi says Baghdad incident was carried out by 'terrorists'
Latest UN report says destructive impact of conflicts is being felt by children right across the region
The crippled health system in Syria is taking its toll on the water system with the Red Cross reporting that the water network is near collapse as a result of constant shelling
Abbott says that ISIL 'boast about their evil' rather than hide it
More than 300 of the deaths reported last month were registered in violence-wracked Baghdad alone
Israel PM says he’s ready to resume negotiations with Palestinians; PLO’s Erekat calls assertion ‘hollow public-relations talk’
In recent weeks, several opponents of Egyptian regime have died in prison