Published On: Mon, Aug 28th, 2017

Why PhD holders can’t find jobs even in Saudi Arabia

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By Ali Alkali (From Madinah, Saudi Arabia)

The number of unemployed youth is disturbing even in rich countries like Saudi Arabia, as hundreds of thousands of highly educated citizens, some PhD holders, seek employments that are not available.
“This is an appalling fact”, according to a special report published by Saudi Gazette Weekend on Friday, August 26, 2017, lamenting that “While we accept that our society is home to unemployed Saudis with undergraduate degrees, having an increasing number of PhD holders who are unemployed is shocking.”
Unlike in Nigeria, however, where the unemployed are graduates of Nigerian universities, the unemployment hammer in Saudi Arabia mostly hit those educated in foreign universities.
“This situation” according to the Saudi Gazettee Weekend, “reflects on the poor planning on the part of the bodies that allow students to go abroad to study when there is little possibility of them finding jobs when they return to the Kingdom. Each PhD student costs the government a lot of money in tuition fees. The postgraduate studies program should have a clear vision to stop this problem from recurring and to ensure that PhD students have jobs when they return to the Kingdom.
“These unemployed Saudis should be teaching at our universities and not be sitting idle at home. They are supposed to benefit our country and share their knowledge with Saudi students. After all, they spent many sleepless nights abroad studying.”
Back home, we can recall that the ugly unemployment statistics of Nigerians with advanced degrees had hit the media and became a top subject of discussion last year when candidates with PhD degrees applied for drivers’ jobs at Dangote Group.
The number of applications from first and higher degree holders who sought employment as drivers in the Dangote group was staggering and highly disturbing. Of the 13,000 applications received by the Dangote Group for the100 “Graduate Executive Truck Driver” positions advertised, there were six PhD, 704 Masters and over 8,460 Bachelor degree holders.
Speaking during the mentor-ship meeting of the World Bank Youth Forum, Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said that the company only needed 100 drivers, but received that overwhelming applications.
In any growing economy, it is rather shocking that PhD and Masters degree holders are seeking employment as drivers. Development experts believe that the Dangote Group revelation was a wake up call for governments to go beyond rhetoric and start the implementation of credible programmes to improve the living condition of their citizens. It is no longer enough to claim that the economy is growing by this or that percent.
Looking for someone to take the blame for the disturbing unemployment situation of highly educated citizens, the Saudi Gazettee Weekend said, “The real problem lies in our universities and major companies, which are full of expatriate professors. While it is vital for universities to have professors of different backgrounds and nationalities, it is unwise that the number of non-Saudi professors exceeds that of Saudi professors. There should be some balance. Moreover, some non-Saudi professors have fake degrees while others have been involved in improper practices in their home countries.
“We should find a rapid solution to this problem. Saudi students have worked hard overseas to get their PhDs and have spent years studying and researching. They deserve a better chance. They are our national assets and we should be proud of them.”
Though academic qualifications have a lot of benefits, the Saudi authorities and civil society are beginning to realize that most academic studies are theoretical and do not focus on practical training, which is indispensable.
So, according to a different report published by the Saudi Gazettee Weekend, the way to find solution to the problem is ON-THE-JOB TRAINING which they now consider “more important than academic studies.”
They realize that the labor market is in dire need of training programs that can help young Saudi men and women quickly adapt to the job environment and find employment.
Speaking with Peoples Daily, a Makkah-based Development Analyst, Abdallah Al-Jaithen, said: “To better enforce Saudization, we need to focus on this sort of training. A high school graduate should be encouraged to find work while simultaneously completing his education. Employers should hire and train fresh graduates as a way of investing in them. We could start implementing this training program in certain fields as a starter and then focus on other sectors such as the retail sector to achieve 100 percent Saudization. Expatriate workers seem to control this field and put obstacles in the way of Saudis who try to enter.
“I strongly believe in the benefits of on-the-job training because I underwent some when l was at school. When I joined the Ministry of Haj (known then as the Ministry of Haj and Endowments), I had an intermediate school diploma. I worked for the ministry and attended school in the evening.
“Although I did not study any specialized mathematics and accounting subjects at school, I worked for the accounting department. I underwent on-the-job training and learned how to keep financial records. My job was not easy and involved a large amount of verifying, revising and auditing. The most difficult part was going to the Ministry of Finance at the end of each month for a final revision. If even one riyal was missing, I would be held accountable for it. I had to be very meticulous. The training period lasted for three weeks but was intensive. With the help of colleagues, I learned the job and became good at it.
“Before joining the ministry, I never thought that I would ever work as an accountant, as l was more focused on reading classic Arabic books. Shortly after the training period was over, I found myself drawn to accounting. I am sure if young Saudi men and women were given similar opportunities, they would excel in these fields even though they may not think of them as their dream jobs.”

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