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Mon 27 May 2013 08:31 AM

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Military draft would benefit Arab youth, says SABIC CEO

Al Mady says mandatory service would teach Arab youth how to work and lower their job expectations

Military draft would benefit Arab youth, says SABIC CEO
SABIC CEO, Mohamed Al Mady (Getty Images)

Arab youth would benefit from mandatory military service and need to be more modest in their job expectations, the head of one of Saudi Arabia’s largest companies has said at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation CEO Mohammed Al Mady, who is also co-chair of WEF on the Middle East and North Africa, said there were plenty of jobs in Arab countries but youth were reluctant to accept them, while governments imported cheap and apathetic labour from other parts of the world.

The average unemployment rate for youth across the region is 28 percent, the forum heard, while youth made up about half of the population.    

“The problem really is [that] you have to tackle the cultural dimensions of the labour force. People don’t accept jobs,” Al Mady said during a forum discussion on how to address the Arab employment crisis.

“They want the jobs that will give them higher money and stability. That’s not going to happen; they have to accept certain jobs [in] categories that fit their situation.

“The countries have to work very hard in how to change the perception of their youth so that they can accept the existing jobs.

“How do we change them? Governments have to probably draft them into the military for six months before they go into the job market … [to] give them resilience, [teach] them how to be modest, how to work, how to take the ladder step by step until they reach what they want.”

It is estimated that 85 million jobs need to be created in the Arab world by 2020.

Numerous countries, including Saudi Arabia, have initiated nationalisation programs to force the private sector to employ more nationals.

Al Mady, whose company employs 20,000 people in Saudi Arabia, said the kingdom’s nitaqat system was a political “quick win” and did not necessarily address the problem of improving the quality of youth for employment purposes.

“There’s nothing better than really working together with government and the youth,” he said.

Al Mady also said relaxing barriers for Arabs to work in other Arab countries would help match the unemployed with available jobs, helping to address the region’s need for more jobs while reducing its reliance on foreign workers.

Expats make up a significant proportion of the workforce – as much as two-thirds - in many Gulf countries.

The forum also has heard that there is a dependence on governments to employ citizens, bloating the public sector, adding pressure on budgets and creating a culture of entitlement.

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ahmed Kianin 7 years ago

Compulsory Military service is the BEST thing for the youth, to teach them Duscipline and training.

langyaw 7 years ago

he calls them "imported cheap and apathetic labour". apathetic means lethargic, indifferent.
I wonder, if the locals were working in the same conditions as these imported apathetic workers, would they be energetic and enthusiastic? would they be willing to operate washing machines, drive garbage trucks, sweep the streets, generally do dirty and menial jobs as these "cheap and apathetic" workers are doing?
I don't think military service will change young locals' attitudes in life. being born with a silver spoon in your mouth is something that will require more drastic internal change to happen. what children see in their parents, they will imitate.

thamir 7 years ago

Why don't you walk the walk, set and example and enroll your own kids for the military? Chances are very high you'll use your wasta to get them jobs.

Anon 7 years ago

Chances are they would run a mile if called to defend their nation and send in the expats, Bahrain style.

nimby 7 years ago

It wont ever happen, but...

Postpones having to give jobs as soon as anyone wants, at any wage in any position.
So finish your education, and then go into the draft.
They would all come out with better discipline and more respect.
Bring it on!

Glen 7 years ago

Nationjal Service is certainly an excellent idea that need not be limited to military service but could include Civil Defence and other Key Point Activities that a nation relies on. This need not be limited to males as females can also play a crucial role in their nations, as nurses, teachers aides and in ministries that need these services for the nation.

This would have an immediate effect of reducing the number of expatriates required to provide services to the citizens of these nations. Secondly it would provide those who are serous about job market opportunities to learn to be disciplined and have an evaluation by the reputable authorities as to their work ethics, providing some input to potential emp[loyers.

Well said Mohammed Al Mady, now all that is required is for leaders of these nations to lead by example.

Pinochet 7 years ago

Best idea ever for this part of the world. This will finally turn some of these spoiled kids real men.
This helped many countries make people disciplined and respect authority and others. It sets boundaries. Looking forward to see the first batch enrolled for 2 years.

Thoughtful 7 years ago

Mr Ghaslan, Appears you are rather critical of a very intelligent & constructive suggestion.

Don't ask what others can do for your country. Ask what you can! ~ Old American Saying.

Buheji 7 years ago

Here is an man who I respect and admire. As a GCC citizen I would love to see my children enroll in the military/civil defense extra for a period of 1 year either before or after graduation.

We need more thoughtful leaders who take into account unusual (at least for the GCC) solutions to our problems.

max 7 years ago

It's a bad idea - too many young men wearing uniform might give them ideas.