x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Unemployed Saudi teachers stage rare Riyadh protest

A group of 250 unemployed Saudi university graduates staged a rare protest in the capital Riyadh, and the group's spokesman vowed to keep up the demonstrations until the country creates jobs for them.

RIYADH // A group of 250 unemployed Saudi university graduates staged a rare protest in the capital Riyadh, and the group's spokesman vowed yesterday to keep up the demonstrations until the country creates jobs for them.

The US ally and OPEC's biggest oil exporter is an absolute monarchy and usually does not tolerate public displays of dissent. Newspapers tend to carry the official line.

Despite its massive oil wealth, Saudi Arabia is grappling with unemployment that hit 10.5 per cent in 2009, according to the latest published figure.

"We are a group of teachers who have not found any jobs. We have staged a peaceful protest in front of the ministry of education ... We would like to protest for longer but the police keep dispersing us," Nayef al-Tamimi said.

Al-Hayat daily showed a picture of graduates protesting in front of the ministry of education on Saturday.

The protesters, who staged a similar demonstration in August, met ministry officials to demand the creation of more jobs in government schools. "There is a big chance that we will stage another protest. They promised us that they will announce jobs soon but if they don't then we will stage another protest," Mr Tamimi said.

Teachers are offered 2,000 riyals (Dh1,957) a month in the private sector for a job that pays about 8,000 riyals a month in government schools, Mr Tamimi said.

Many Saudis are forced to work as taxi drivers, private security guards or other low-paid jobs to make ends meet - jobs the country is used to Asian migrant labour doing.

Up to one-third of Saudi Arabia's population of 27 million are thought to be foreigners.

Saudi Arabia offers its nationals social benefits but they are considered below those granted by other Gulf Arab oil producers.

The kingdom does not publish regular jobless data, a sensitive issue for authorities since it highlights fissures in wealth distribution in one of the world's most affluent nations.

The country is currently spending US$400 billion (Dh1.47 trillion) on infrastructure projects in addition to rolling out three consecutive record budgets in an effort to stimulate the economy and create more jobs for its fast-growing native population.

More at www.thenational.ae/youthinthemuslimworld

* Reuters