The recently concluded Jeddah Economic Forum rightfully chose ‘Growth through Jobs’ as its theme.
At the JEF, Mohammed AlShaya, executive chairman of AlShaya Group, discussed development of the youth and laid strong emphasis on creating new job opportunities in the retail sector. He highlighted the high density of investment in this sector and said it holds huge potential for creating job opportunities in thousands for the youth.
His statement was apparently meant for drawing the attention of government on one hand and of the retail sector on the other. He felt it was time more efforts were made to create an appropriate climate for the retail sector’s advancement by overcoming its difficulties.
As we all know, the Saudi economy is generating enough jobs but not necessarily the kind of jobs that meet the aspirations and qualifications of Saudis. The question is why the retail sector is not attracting young Saudis.
Retail is a highly labor-intensive sector that requires minimal expertise and offers low salaries. Not surprisingly, Saudis have been shunning this sector and are instead turning toward other lucrative jobs. This means that non-Saudis face no competition from Saudis in this sector.
The retail sector, which has been strongly performing across the Kingdom over the years, involves a work force of 1.6 million, with foreigners accounting for nearly 85 percent. Thus, only about 15 percent Saudis are working in this sector.
Saudi Arabia has been consistently calling for strong investments in the retail sector; such investments, though, have come in the form of shopping malls and shopping centers. These reflect a marked shift from traditional retailing and have given a boost to modern retailing.
The Kingdom, realizing that it has lagged behind in its Saudization goal in the retail sector, has therefore intensified its campaign for Saudization. The campaign in this sector was launched last year.
The ever rising youth population has made the issue of jobs a challenging one for the Kingdom, especially as jobs suiting the emerging youth need to be created consistently.
Construction and manufacturing are two other sectors that are also involved in creating jobs. In fact, they have been equally involved in providing job opportunities.
Due to high levels of disposable income, a relatively young and upwardly mobile population, the Saudi retail sector no doubt has significant potential for growth.
The sector has seen sales expand by around 11 percent in 2013. This is dominated by large-scale developments such as hypermarkets, with shopping centers spreading beyond the major cities, which will create more job opportunities for Saudis.