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Sun 12 Feb 2012 08:35 AM

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Saudisation offers lucrative boost for Gulf marketing firms

UAE firms are seeking to help Saudi private sector firms target local graduates

Saudisation offers lucrative boost for Gulf marketing firms
Demand for Saudi nationals has increased since the Nitaqat system was introduced, said the Hay Group (Getty Images)
Saudisation offers lucrative boost for Gulf marketing firms
Saudi is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. (Getty Images)

The Gulf private sector’s bid to raise the number of locals amongst its workforce, in order to comply with stricter government regulations, has proved to be an increasingly lucrative source of business for marketing and event management firms.

Dubai-based Entourage Marketing and Events last year began working with SEHA, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, to try and boost its level of Emiratisation.

“They had 17,000 employees and the percentage was around ten percent and they wanted to increase around six or seven percent,” said Mohamed Tayem, managing director of Entourage, a Dubai-based marketing and events management company

“We started with an awareness campaign with advertising and then did a lot of shows in universities and went to students in schools and participated in university recruitment fairs. The scenario in SEHA is they are not reducing expats they are increasing the locals… Within 2011 we managed to reach 18 percent,” he added.

Tayem’s success with SEHA has seen the firm work with other companies in the UAE, such as Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, but he sees the Saudi Arabia as the big market for this kind of work as authorities in the kingdom are looking to reduce the ratio between expatriate and local workers and tackle the unemployment problem.

“We have the experience but have not started on any Saudisation programme yet [but] my account managers are working on it,” he said

The Saudi government announced last year it is seeking to reduce the unemployment rate, which is currently at around 10.8 percent, by encouraging the hiring of more Saudi nationals in the private sector.

The Labour Minister Adel Fakieh also announced plans for the ministry to launch around 30 new initiatives as part of its drive to create jobs for Saudi university graduates and inform the private sector about qualified Saudi jobseekers, which will open up potential opportunities for marketing and event management firms.

The kingdom's Labour Ministry has put a 20 percent ceiling on the country’s guest workers in a bid to help find jobs for Saudi nationals, a move which could lead to up to a three million expatriate workers being forced to leave the kingdom over the next few years.

“Instead of reducing expatriates it is better to increase locals. You cannot reduce [expat workers] as you have specific specialties where expats are there and locals are not,” Tayem said.

Eileen Wallis, managing partner of the UAE-based Portsmouth Group, said this is becoming an increasing source of revenue for PR, marketing and event management companies in the Gulf.

“We have a number of clients who participate in job fairs and university recruiting activities to increase their visibility with UAE and Saudi national applicants, particularly in sectors such as retail, arts and culture, and hospitality,” she said.

With the increasing number of GCC nationals graduating from local universities looking for employment in the private sector, this is set to become a growing requirement.

Despite these campaigns, Sunil John, CEO of PR ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller, one of the Gulf’s largest PR firms, said more needed to be done to encourage young locals into the private sector and to improve their skill set so they can find appropriate employment.

“While there are increasing opportunities in the private sector, the preference by young Nationals for government jobs is stronger. This was highlighted in ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller’s third Arab Youth Survey in 2011, with 52 per cent of GCC citizens surveyed favouring a job with the government (a figure that ranges from 42 per cent in Kuwait to 79 per cent in Saudi Arabia) against just 19 per cent in the non-Gulf countries,” he pointed out.

John said the reasons cited for preferring government jobs are higher pay, lesser working hours and a more benevolent work environment.

“To drive employment and encourage the young nationals to take up private sector jobs, the educational system must also adapt to the changed realities. With the population growing and public sector jobs being limited, it is important that our universities prepare the students for the private sector, instilling in them the spirit of competitiveness. Youth leadership programmes will also help in motivating the youngsters to take up private sector jobs that meet their aspirations,” he added.

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Mohammed 8 years ago

This article is not clear. How would the UAE-based private companies help the saudization progarm? Are they going to employ Saudis in UAE? Or they will just provide their experiences to the Saudi private sector?