Last Update 11:3
Thursday, 14 November 2019

Saudi unemployed graduates protest over jobs

Rare protests in Riyadh and Jedda target lack of opportunities and low wages for teachers

Reuters, Sunday 10 Apr 2011
Views: 1296
Views: 1296

Dozens of unemployed university graduates and teachers staged rare protests in two Saudi cities on Sunday to demand jobs and better wages in the biggest Arab economy, which is struggling to reduce joblessness.

Saudi Arabia, the world's No. 1 oil exporter and a US ally, is an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate public dissent. There is no elected parliament or political parties, and newspapers tend to carry the official line.

Over 20 protesters gathered outside the education ministry office in Jeddah while around 20 collected outside the ministry in the capital Riyadh, witnesses and participants said.

"God willing, I'll be here until Friday if I have to. We don't care anymore after seven years of unemployment. We have no other choice," said Omar Alharbi, a 34-year-old Arabic language teacher who took part in the Jeddah protest.

"I plan to stay here until we find a solution," he said.

The father of six now works as a teacher in a private school making only 1,800 riyals (US$480) a month, below the country's unemployment handout of 2,000 riyals.

Despite its oil wealth, Saudi Arabia, which is rolling out its third straight record budget this year, is struggling to reduce unemployment which reached 10 per cent in 2010.

In a move to stave off public dissent gripping much of the Arab world, King Abdullah ordered handouts exceeding $100 billion to be spent on housing, infrastructure, health care and security. It also included a 2,000 riyal unemployment benefit.

Saudis in private firms compete with foreigners who agree to work for lower wages. Teachers are offered 1,800 riyals a month in a private school for a job that pays around 9,000 riyals a month in government schools, protesters said.

Some of the protesters said they had been unemployed since 2003. They estimated the number of unemployed Saudi Arabic language teachers to exceed 10,000.

Saudi Arabia has not seen the kind of mass uprisings that have rocked the Arab world this year, but a number of protests have taken place in the Eastern Province, where most of the kingdom's oil fields are.

Almost no Saudis in major cities answered a Facebook call for protest on 11 March, in the face of a massive security presence around the country.

Earlier this year, some 250 unemployed graduates gathered at the education ministry in Riyadh to demand employment and vowed to continue demonstrating until the government produces jobs.

The group later dispersed after hearing promises from ministry officials saying they will deal with their issue.

"We expect to hear promises to calm us down and disperse us but we will be back. We will be back until they find a solution," Alharbi said.

Short link:


Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.

© 2010 Ahram Online.