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Are We a Nation of Clerks?

According to a report, 35 percent of Saudis don’t want their sons to join the private sector. The survey also revealed that among other professions that don’t appeal to the Saudis are technical ones and those where fieldwork is necessary. Nor are they keen on any jobs that require long hours or English language skills, not to mention any jobs other than those of an administrative nature. It said customs and traditions and attitudes toward manual labor are an obstacle to employing young Saudis.

It is a very sad and alarming report. I think Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi should read it and discuss it with those responsible for education in this country. For how much longer will we let customs and traditions dictate the future and welfare of this country? Have not those responsible for education heard of attitude change or behavioral modifications? Whole nations have adapted to changing geopolitical conditions and not only managed but prospered as a result.

Take a leaf out of the book of former East European countries. See how they outclass us these days in every field of human endeavor.

While we are busy singing our own praises, others are toiling quietly and getting on with the business of progress. Young people in the new Europe are looking forward to a bright future and are ready to face the challenges it will bring.

It took these countries a mere 10 years to build up an army of young men and women who are proficient in computers and other skills required in the contemporary job market. Using their newly acquired freedom to travel wisely, they went to Western European countries to learn subjects ranging from catering, the culinary arts and tailoring to computers and marketing. In London, they live four in a room, work and attend classes. I visited an institute there and saw the determination in the faces of the students.

So if educational systems do not provide the skills needed to enter a competitive and global job market, if our customs and traditions prevent our youth from entering the market because of their disdain for manual labor, and all most of them want is administrative jobs, where does that leave us?

Are we going to be a nation of clerks?

It is already pathetic that we have to use force to compel companies to employ Saudis. We berate the businessmen if they fail to meet their Saudization quota, we accuse them of being unpatriotic. Some of us make fun of them in the newspapers. But do we listen to them? Do we hear them when they tell us that much as they would like to employ Saudis they cannot find suitable candidates who are willing to put in a full day’s work every day of the week?

Yes, we have a moral obligation to our youth. They are the future of the country. But what we need are young people determined to shoulder responsibility: Qualified, hardworking, eager to learn and above all coming to work on time and producing.

If the young Saudis businesses employ are not up to scratch, if they skive off work and spend their time at the office procrastinating, then their employers must have the right to let them go. Employers cannot be expected to carry dead weight. They are not charities. They have a business to run. By the same token offices and factories are not dumping grounds. Bureaucrats should not for the sake of their own personal whims and to gain easy popularity make statements that put captains of business and industry in a poor light. They should know better. They should know that it is these businesses, when all is said and done, that are the backbone of our nation.

In Al-Eqtisadiah I read recently about the 50,000 Asians who work in Silicon Valley. According to the CEO of a major US company, they are there because they are intelligent and hardworking and put in long hours.

And the Americans love them.

Everyone likes a hard worker, irrespective of his nationality. What we need is a massive attitude change. Let us not blame others. We must realize that nobody is taking our jobs from us just to spite us, and we must begin to learn that hard work never shamed anybody no matter how menial the job may seem. A hardworking plumber is infinitely more deserving of respect than a lazy executive who sits in his office all day twiddling his thumbs while others do the work for him.

We have a problem. Let us analyze it well, come up with the solutions and march ahead to progress and strength.


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