Educated Saudis Unwilling to Settle Down Abroad

Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 12 October 2005


JEDDAH - Most Saudi university graduates want to work in the Kingdom - preferably at Saudi Aramco - and want an average salary of SR8,000 a month. The most important factors in deciding what company to work for are the opportunity to learn and grow, to be challenged and an attractive salary. These findings from a recent survey give an insight into what young graduates expect as the country, with the cooperation of the private sector, tackles the issue of unemployment.

According to the study "Recruiting Top Graduates in Saudi Arabia" done by the recruitment website GulfTalent.com, 94 percent of recent graduates surveyed at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) would like to remain in the Kingdom or return after working abroad for a few years. While 54 percent of the graduates expressed interest in working outside the country for a few years, the vast majority stated that they would like to return after gaining some international experience. Only 6 percent of respondents would consider permanently relocating abroad.

A spokesperson for GufTalent.com said that these findings reflect strong family ties, a deep commitment to Saudi Arabia and, above all, Saudi youths' prevailing sense of optimism about the future of their country and the opportunities available to them. It also indicates that there is virtually no threat of the "brain drain" which has been experienced by other Arab and Muslim societies.

The study found that 64 percent of those surveyed put Saudi Aramco as their first choice for employment, followed by 50 percent for SABIC, 18 percent for Saudi Electricity Company and 15 percent for Saudi Telecom. Eighteen multinational companies made it onto the list of the top 30; Mobily was the only Gulf-based company on the list.

"Considering that the survey was of KFUPM graduates, I'm not surprised that most of them prefer Aramco and SABIC but, having said that, I agree that perhaps Aramco offers the best opportunities for employment for Saudis whether in terms of the work environment, the salary or the potential to advance based on your performance instead of your connections," said Mohammed Jifri, a recent King Abdul Aziz University graduate. His friend Said Al-Ghamdi had a different view. "First, it's difficult to get hired by these big companies and only few of them have real employment opportunities. And second, most of the private companies prefer expatriates because they will accept lower salaries and are willing to work longer hours with few benefits. I think it's better to work for a small or medium-sized company where you can stand out if you do a good job," he said.

Although a significant number of respondents preferred to work in, or close to, their home province, this was not the dominant consideration for the majority, with only 6 percent citing it as the most important criterion. Other factors mentioned were the opportunity to use existing knowledge as well as job security. Less important factors, according to the survey, are the company's image and reputation and the working hours.

The report concludes that in order to attract the best candidates, employers in the Kingdom need to formulate an attractive Employee Value Proposition - a combination of provisions in the job and working environment which fully address employee career and professional aspirations. These attractive aspects of the job are not simply a good salary but also the opportunity for growth and development, the chance to do interesting and challenging work and see the impact of that work. The report also recommends that companies consider providing international exposure to their top-performing employees, involving senior management in graduate recruiting and actively participating in university career days.