One of the most pressing questions of last year was about the state of unemployment and if the worries on that regard were realistic and justified. The issue was more and more in the limelight especially after the efforts of the Ministry of Labor (MOL) to employ more women in the workforce was faced by fierce opposition from many conservatives who argued, in one of their many invalid arguments, that MOL should first work to provide jobs for unemployed men before even thinking about women.
Of course some conservatives were simply trying to take cheap shots at the liberal minister of labor Dr. Ghazi Al Gosaibi. You can say whatever you want about him, but I think Al Gosaibi should not be blamed for the mistakes of the Ministry of Planning and our dysfunctional educational system, because thanks to them and only them we have an army of unskilled college graduates and high school dropouts who their sole dream is to become pencil-pushers as a part of the government bureaucratic machine in order to receive big money for doing nothing.
Ministry lack of planning which caused unemployment in some sectors has also led to a very high demand of local human resources in some other sectors. Take healthcare for example: less than 20% of workers in healthcare are Saudis. Compare this to the very small number of graduates from medical colleges here and you have a real dilemma. It is said that with the current numbers of graduates we will need about 500 years to come anything near Saudization of the healthcare system. Ironically, the biggest spending in the national budget goes to education and healthcare .
It is not hopeless, though, or at least that’s the hope. We are enjoying a second boom, and the mega projects launched recently are impressive and promising but we should not repeat the mistakes of the first boom because we might never have another chance; we simply can’t afford it. I pray that the lessons were learned, and please let us not fool ourselves again. Let’s work, and let’s work hard. It’s about time.