When the Minister Becomes a Waiter

Ghazi al-Gosaibi, the Saudi Minister of Labor, is seen here wearing a waiter uniform and serving food at Fuddruckers in Jeddah. The minister criticized those who look down on some jobs saying they do not understand the spirit of Quran.

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40 thoughts on “When the Minister Becomes a Waiter

  1. If it’s about jobs I think people must accept any at the beginning of their career life, until they gain experience and after that start looking for a different one.. I think that humility has vanished these days and most of young people want a certain job in their mind which they won’t achieve unless they became experienced in that certain field..

  2. Fouad, I love fuddruckers and was so sad when it closed down in Oman :(

    I think its a good initiative .. there is no shame to take any job as long as its honorable .. esp if the unemployment rate is high.

  3. Having a terrible job while you’re young is a rite of passage. My parents insisted that I work in a pharmacy or a restaurant or the like so that I would learn to treat everyone politely and not to get upset when someone was unreasonably harsh with me. With that being said, do you think the minister has ever held such a job himself? =P

  4. He did not have to do it, he knows that. But he did it. That says something about him. (HE IS A GENTALMAN). I do believe if the others with the expensive MASHALIH have the spirit of this old pillar, this country would not be the same any more.

  5. I wonder if he was in the kitchen as well, or just put the waistcoat on for the photo call, i seriously doubt he grilled that burger…! but i get the message and its a good one… everybody complains they cant get jobs here, but there are thousands available that foreign workers are happy to take because saudis are too high and mighty to take them as they regard them as inferior..

  6. Its a good idea, however, here are my 2 cents. Working is better than not working, but without a minimum wage system, you wont attract the young to those jobs. Especially of they don’t really see it as a stepping stone to something better.

  7. In my cynic opinion, follows from life-pan experience, this minister not more then a a good politic – not more then that.
    People should like their rulers. And sometimes, the rules make their upside downs to send a message to puplic saying “we are the same”.
    As to me, I do NOT think that any minister should dress like a waiter, taxi driver or sewage pipe cleaner, BUT a politic SHOULD.

  8. Very good news. I have seen this problem in other Arab countries too where a young guy would rather be at home alone with no income than take a menial position which is “below” his family’s rank. I explained to a friend that me and my friends in the West had often worked at fast food places and jobs like that and he actually appreciated that a lot.

  9. The message is clear. It’s not the Restaurant or wondering the “if”s & “what if”s….this my brothers & sisters is a good example… don’t be stupid or wondering for something else you guys should know better.

    “Be a better Muslim & do the right thing”!

    Cheers!!!

  10. Nice job with the PR shot, Ghazi. Now that we talked the talk, how about we walk the walk and level the playing field for our home boys and girls: Minimum wage, unemployment compensation (as an added security layer for people risking their careers with the private services sector), and enforcing workers rights would all be a good start…

  11. I just paid 50 USD to fill my gas here in US, I don’t think the Job of the Saudi Minister of labour to promote service jobs for our youth esp. now that the country can invest in their education and training for a better paid and more meaningful careers needed much by the country, I’ll just say that the minister loves the attention of the media as always…

  12. Ahmed, is this the same Ghazi Algosaibi who wrote “An Apartment Called Freedom”? What a fantastic novel. I always recommend it to students in the U.S. and Australia as a first reading to understand that historical period of Arab nationalism. It beats all history books hands down.

  13. To those who are saying it’s just a smart “political” move… well, it would have been if it were by someone other than Dr. Gosaibi.

    If we had a few more individuals like him in higher powers, this country would move forward faster.

  14. My step son is in Jeddah with his father and his family. We wanted him to get a job. We figured the fact that he spoke English and Arabic might help him get something at a hotel or something like that.

    He hasnt finished high school so we figured it would be good for him.

    When he asked his father’s family in Jeddah told him that such jobs were not for Saudis, they were for Pakis.

    His mother and I were amazed, the kid hasnt even finished high school, what did they want for him……..an office, a desk and a crew of workers to lead?

    Amazing…….no wonder the work ethic SUCKS!

  15. I think he should create jobs instead of offering low jobs or replacing workers to people are not ready to accept it.he did alot of harms to business. he should retire and write stories and poetry is better.

  16. For all the proponents of having Saudis work instead of having foreign workers let me ask you this .. are the Saudi workers able to survive on the 500 – 1000 riyal monthly salaries working 10 hour daily shifts? (probably not) So what is needed is a mandatory increase in minimum wage and a set of employee rights so that there is more of an incentive to work.

    And yes it is true that in the end a Saudi would rather work for 500-1000 Riyals a month than semi-starve with our current economic distribution of wealth, but that doesn’t give us the right to clap our hands in success that the Saudi did actually take up that job because it misses the overall point.

    Adding to what Hala said, why are college graduates being encouraged to become labor workers? if it’s because they’re not competent enough to hold the jobs they were educated to work in, then FIX the education system ($140 a barrel can do wonders). If they become competent then the businesses employing the specialized foreign workers wont have an excuse.

  17. not bad !
    good idea, but wait !

    we still don’t have a jobs?
    low salaries in the state of the first oil globally ؟!
    sorry that doesn’t solve anything Mr. Ghazi !

  18. Muhammad,

    If the Saudi is not working at all, how are they able to live on ZERO income?

    You have to start somewhere. You might start working at one of these places and work your way to manager, or higher.

    Why do Saudis think they should start at the top or start with wages that are too much for the education and experience they have?

  19. “…are the Saudi workers able to survive on the 500 – 1000 riyal monthly salaries working 10 hour daily shifts?”

    Muhammed – I’m curious as to why you don’t think SR 500-1000 a month is enough to live as a Saudi? Considering the numerous press articles in the past few weeks of foreign employees getting “paid” SR250 a month still surviving. (I put ‘paid’ in inverted commas as it seems getting paid is not a right, but a choice by the employer). It’s a side issue, but part of the problem.

    Likewise the sentiment of ‘fixing’ the education problem – I understand it’s just as much a problem in the West, i.e. college graduates who aren’t qualified to do a high ranking job because of a lack of experience.

    I agree with Abu Sinan here – degree or no degree, you have to work your way to the top. And I think you’ll find that the “specialised foreign workers” did exactly the same.

  20. … should point out that this (and the previous post) wasnt written by the blog author… will add an initial to avoid confusion!

  21. Abu Sinan,

    “If the Saudi is not working at all, how are they able to live on ZERO income?”

    Simple, most Saudi’s (who are relatively young based on population statistics) get help from family and relatives.

    you state:
    “You have to start somewhere.” and “Why do Saudis think they should start at the top or start with wages that are too much for the education and experience they have?”

    Start at the top? We are talking about labor jobs! what top are you referring to lol? and If you read my post you’d see that I call for a set of mandatory RIGHTS of having an increase in minimum wage that PROTECTS the normal citizen so that they are able to actually LIVE off a waiters salary for example.

    Once again people, SAUDIS aren’t ashamed of taking such jobs ! To the contrary they are ashamed of being handed petty UNJUST salaries at the end of the month (Almost every able country has some logical livable minimum wage)….

  22. Ahmed S,

    You say that:
    “I’m curious as to why you don’t think SR 500-1000 a month is enough to live as a Saudi?” and that “foreign employees getting “paid” SR250 a month still surviving.”

    it boggles my mind how someone has the audacity to suggest that SR250 a month is livable in Saudi lol ! Alright Ahmed S lets do an experiment with you and have you live on SR250 a month and see how well you do (bet you can’t come online anymore lol)

    What’s even more saddening is your mindset of having ‘Saudi’ citizens who live in a country that is #1 in greatest oil reserves in the WORLD accept the idea that SR250 a month is acceptable lol. and those specialized foreign workers are in Saudi for a reason, they aren’t as lucky as our citizens in having Oil or else they wouldn’t be here lol :)

    Then you bring the interesting example of the U.S. and fail to realize that over there they PROTECT the less privileged of their citizens by having a DECENT minimum wage so don’t even try to compare the two.

    Can I imply from your post that there’s nothing to ‘fix’ in the education system that is producing poor quality graduates? this is easily refuted, because if they were producing good students we wouldn’t be needing those specialized foreign workers coming from poor countries.

  23. Muhammed,

    It’s a totally fair comment you make – but I think you missed the point that I was making lol…I’d be the first to hold my hands up and say SR250 wasn’t a liveable wage! I don’t think that amount is acceptable – no chance!

    BUT some Saudi employers clearly do – because that’s the going rate for what they pay guest workers for that particular job. Surely they live in the same country as Saudis – hence meet the same costs of living?! Food, rent etc?

    Let’s throw nationality out of the window; I think we’d both agree that businesses exist to make money. If you can hire a waiter for SR250 a month vs someone who demands SR2000 a month (broadly speaking, a ‘fair’ wage)… I’m afraid there’s no match.

    The point I’m trying to make is if that is indeed the going rate for that job, then a Saudi should accept it – even if it means extra support from the family (and I believe earning SR250 is still better than earning nothing). Show commitment, show a positive work ethic. I guarantee you that he won’t be on that salary or position for long. Wouldn’t you agree that’s a better experiment to run?

    I’m afraid I didnt mention the US or its welfare system so I’m not sure what you’re referring to lol. However, I agree with your comment about the minimum wage system. But my worry is that if a minimum wage is introduced, it will be for Saudis only – thus the economic argument for hiring foreign labour still stands.

    Finally, I dont think it’s a case of producing poor quality graduates. But all the education in world is no match for real, hands-on experience – which specialised foreign workers (from both rich and poor countries) often possess when they come to the Kingdom.

  24. Ahmed S,

    you state:
    “Surely they live in the same country as Saudis – hence meet the same costs of living?! Food, rent etc?”
    most workers live in Saudi households, therefore food, housing, health, clothes, and transportation is usually all provided to them so they can live on $250 since they don’t need much of it to ‘live’ in the country.

    you also say:
    “I think we’d both agree that businesses exist to make money. If you can hire a waiter for SR250 a month vs someone who demands SR2000 a month (broadly speaking, a ‘fair’ wage)… I’m afraid there’s no match.”

    Business should make money but not at the expense of the less-privileged of our society. Therefore it MUST be regulated by the government and that’s where the mandatory minimum wage comes into play.

    you say:
    “But my worry is that if a minimum wage is introduced, it will be for Saudis only – thus the economic argument for hiring foreign labour still stands”

    Thats where regulation comes into play as well. You make it mandatory for businesses to make sure that a percentage of their labor force is Saudi (with the minimum wage into effect of course). That percentage can be calculated by economists relatively easily.

    you say:
    “(and I believe earning SR250 is still better than earning nothing)”

    and I believe earning $2000 is even better than $250 and better than nothing. remember Oil is at $140 :) we’re not talking about a poor country here, so we shouldn’t be thinking like one.

    you conclude with:
    “But all the education in world is no match for real, hands-on experience”

    If a computer science major that graduates out of KSU doesn’t know how to program, then you’ve got a problem with your educational system no doubt about it, your students lack the essentials why would you focus on a experience when they first lack the essentials needed to even try and give them experience.

  25. Muhammed,

    You mentioned that: “most workers live in Saudi households … [most costs of living] is usually provided“

    Really? Even the waiters, street cleaners, construction workers and mechanics? I’m not sure I agree with you there. Speak to a street cleaner next time you pass one, and I’m sure he’ll disagree too.

    As a concept, keeping a certain quota of Saudi employees should work – and if I’m not mistaken, this is exactly what is being implemented across Saudi industry right now. But I feel there still is a societal/cultural problem though with the work ethic, and I’d like to illustrate this with an example. One thing I find quite amusing is when you go shopping. The cashier is usually Saudi (and if I understand correctly, cashiers are 100% Saudised). But then there’s a troop of foreign workers packing customers’ groceries behind him. Overseas, I often notice customers packing their own bags, or the cashier both scanning and packing the bags. Simply put, I don’t understand what the foreign workers are doing there – but clearly they’re needed (else they wouldn’t be there in the first place!). And that costs businesses money – which they could use to employ more Saudis!

    Maybe that’s just my experience, but it’s not just limited to supermarkets though. http://www.arabianbusiness.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13516&Itemid=1 – I’d be interested to hear your views on this. Reading this, I understand that if Saudi did implement a minimum wage, you couldn’t sustain the country’s growth, and thus, its long term success. Where would you draw the line?

    Nobody is implying that Saudi is a poor country! BUT you have to learn how to walk before you can run. And, let’s be honest, if you were running already (as a fully developed/”rich” country), you wouldn’t be facing this problem right now! I agree, earning $2000 is even better than $250 – but my point is you have to start somewhere! That isn’t “thinking like a poor country” – it’s how many successful people start their careers. A previous post mentioned Ali al-Naimi starting off as a waiter. I don’t think he’d be the type of character to demand $2,000 because he thinks “my country is rich, we are not poor!”

    You did conclude with a fair comment on computer science graduates – and I agree that the only way to fix that problem is to rejig the curriculum to ensure you’re meeting the base skill set. I was referring more to the doctors / engineers / oil workers / project managers that are still coming from abroad – where experience would naturally outweigh just a degree. Would you agree with this sentiment?

  26. Ahmed S,

    Bro have you ever been inside of their households? I have and I’ve seen it first hand. I have never seen such slums in my life having dozens of people crammed into such a small space, it may be possibly tolerated by a single man living in Saudi, but to bring a family as well is almost a nightmare. This really shouldn’t even be a point of discussion its as obvious as daylight.

    you say:
    “But I feel there still is a societal/cultural problem though with the work ethic”

    I agree maybe there is a problem with work ethic generally in Saudi Arabia, but it isn’t necessarily related to the particular job.

    you also say:
    “you couldn’t sustain the country’s growth, and thus, its long term success”

    Alright since the wealthy business men don’t want to pay the extra amount, then let’s have the extremely wealthy government complete the rest of their salary and therefore motivate our citizens to work in those jobs till this phobia is extinct.

    Alnimi was working in Aramco and at the time Saudi’s economy was drastically different than it is now and I’m sure whatever he was getting was enough to live on unlike what it is now. The reason for Al-nimi’s success isn’t cause he waited tables in Aramco lol, it’s because he had the ability to pursue higher learning eventually obtaining a PHD (of course we are ignoring the specific personal traits that he may possess).

    Experience no doubt is important I agree, but to become a doctor or an engineer you still need that degree first. experience comes with time just make sure you have enough places that can provide them with that experience.

  27. What a hipocrit,

    He should work in Butt – Fuckkers…

    He can only talk the talk, but can he walk the walk?

    Don’t worry, as usual, he will fail and move on to another ministry

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