Saudi protests against unemployment

Reuters , Sunday 9 Jan 2011

Hundreds of Saudis took to the streets in Riyadh to protest against unemployment

A group of 250 unemployed Saudi university graduates staged a rare protest in the capital Riyadh, and the group's spokesman vowed on Sunday to keep up the demonstrations till the Gulf Arab state creates jobs for them.

Despite its massive oil weath Saudi Arabia is grappling with unemployment that hit 10.5 percent in 2009, the latest published figure.

"We are a group of teachers who have not found any jobs. We have staged a peaceful protest in front of the ministry of education ... We would like to protest for longer but the police keep dispersing us," Nayef al-Tamimi told Reuters. Al-Hayat daily showed a picture of graduates protesting in front of the Ministry of Education on Saturday.

The protestors, who staged a similar protest in August, met with ministry officials to demand the creation of more jobs in government schools.

"There is a big chance that we will stage another protest. They promised us that they will announce jobs soon but if they don't then we will stage another protest," Tamimi said.

Teachers are offered 2,000 riyals ($533) a month in the private sector for a job that pays around 8,000 riyals a month in government schools, Tamimi said.

Many Saudis are forced to work as taxi drivers, private security guards or other low-paid jobs to make ends meet -- jobs the country is used to Asian migrant labour doing. Up to a third of Saudi Arabia's population of some 27 million are thought to be foreigners.

Saudi Arabia offers its nationals social benefits but they are considered below those granted by other Gulf Arab oil producers such as Kuwait and Qatar, which have much smaller native populations.

The kingdom does not publish regular jobless data, a sensitive issue for authorities since it highlights fissures in wealth distribution in one of the world's most affluent nations.

The country is currently spending $400 billion on infrastructure projects in addition to rolling out three consecutive record budgets in an effort to stimulate the economy and create more jobs for its fast-growing

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