RIYADH // Many Saudis have complained their salaries are not enough to make ends meet, and are taking to Twitter to demand pay rises.
“The salary is not enough”, a hashtag launched in early summer on the microblogging website, triggered more than 17.5 million tweets, reflecting the frustration of many Saudis over their purchasing power.
The campaigners have called on King Abdullah to order “by decree, an increase in the salaries of all civil servants”.
The basic monthly salary of a public employee ranges from between 3,945 riyals (Dh3,863) and 24,750 riyals (Dh24,239), in addition to various allowances, according to a study prepared by insurance companies.
In the private sector, the average wage is 6,400 riyals, compared with 15,299 riyals in other GCC countries, according to a reported study prepared by the World Bank and the Saudi economy ministry.
“Let officials stop stealing ... corruption has taken everything and people are the victims,” tweeted journalist Fahd Al Fahid.
Others posted images they said reflected the misery in the kingdom — a woman rummaging through rubbish, families living in dilapidated houses and students crammed into old lorries.
Some posted cartoons, one of which featured a Saudi man standing in the shadow of a palm tree whose fronds stretch far beyond the kingdom’s borders.
The caption reads: “Our assets go to others: the kingdom receives five per cent [of the wealth] and 95 per cent goes abroad.”
“Inflation and continually rising prices over several years have seriously affected the purchasing power of people,” economist Abdullah Al Almi told AFP.
The result, he said, was “a shrinking middle class”.
Unemployment stands officially at 12.5 per cent and affects mainly young people, who represent 60 per cent of the 20-million-strong native population.
The job market is still dominated by foreigners who come mainly from Southeast Asia and accept low wages.
The government has embarked on a policy of “Saudi-isation” of jobs, hoping to reduce unemployment among its citizens who also happen to be big spenders.
“Nearly 80 per cent of Saudis are now living on bank loans,” warned economic consultant Zeid Al Rummani, adding that their spending is more than their income.
And a housing crisis marked by soaring prices of land and property “puts heavy pressure on salaries”, he said.
“Rising property prices, which is out of control, is a crime,” complained Abdelhamid Al Amri in a tweet.
* Agence France-Presse