August 30, 2010 / 9:30 PM / in 7 years

Saudi minister wants more jobs for citizens

RIYADH, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s interior minister, tackling unemployment that hit 10.5 percent last year, called on ministries and private firms to find jobs for the oil-rich kingdom’s citizens, state news agency SPA said on Monday.

“It is impossible, whether in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia or in the rest of the countries of the world, that the government employs all young people, but jobs in governmental or private sectors should be occupied by citizens,” Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, an influential member of the royal family, said after meeting regional governors.

“Governmental agencies should coordinate... finding jobs for these graduates. The private sector must also employ the young people and this is what I have discussed with a number of chambers of commerce,” Nayef, who also is second deputy prime minister, said.

He made the comments after some 200 Saudi university graduates staged a rare protest in the capital Riyadh at the weekend, demanding the Gulf Arab state give them jobs, Saudi journalists said.

Despite its vast oil resources, Saudi Arabia struggles to find jobs for its nationals due to an outdated education system that focuses more on religion than on skills needed to diversify an oil-based economy weighed down by a bloated public sector.

The kingdom’s unemployment hit 10.5 percent last year, according to official data, and creating jobs for the native population of more than 18 million is one of the biggest challenges facing the country’s ageing leadership.

With a total population officially at 27.1 million, Saudi Arabia offers its nationals social benefits but these are below those granted by other Gulf Arab oil producers such as Kuwait and Qatar, which have much smaller native populations.

Many Saudis are forced to work as taxi drivers, private security guards or other low-paid jobs to make ends meet.

Reporting by Ulf Laessing, editing by Michael Roddy

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