An article in a local Arabic daily focused on the increasing control which expatriate workers have over the Saudi retail sector. The writer Saad Al-Dosari “laments the fact” that retail markets are controlled by expatriates and he adds that most expatriate workers are illegal or undocumented workers!
He says that expatriate workers are a “virus” and asks why the campaigns of the Ministry of Interior have not succeeded in eradicating this “menace”.
He states that the ongoing control of the retail sector by expatriate workers kills any job opportunities for Saudi nationals and negatively affects the Kingdom’s economy. In observing our Arabic press, I have noticed that from time to time negative and racist comments have been made by some writers against expatriates. It may be that these journalists are suffering writer’s block or that they can think of nothing else to write about. However, it should be made clear to them that the use of a term like “virus” is a racist comment. Perhaps the attitude of these Saudi writers is: “Expatriates are an easy target so why not have a go at them?”
Mr. Al-Dosari does not ask why the retail sector cannot retain any Saudi workers. And it appears that he has made no effort to ask the owners of shops for an explanation. Well, I will tell Mr. Al-Dosari that there is a shop and many others that I know of which closed because the Saudi employees did not turn up for work. At a well-known supermarket in Jeddah, six of eight checkout counter clerks were missing on a recent Friday morning. Probably gone fishing!
As for the absence of Saudi women in the retail sector, the writer should be well aware that the mere thought of women working in retail makes the self-appointed guardians of our morals scream and shout. To them the sight of a woman at the sales counter is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.
Furthermore, when we as a nation are engaged in building coalitions and constructing nuclear facilities, railroad systems and huge airports, how can we attack the workers who are toiling to help us complete these ambitious projects?
The expatriate worker did not land in this country by parachute. He came with a visa which was issued to him by our government. If there is no need for him, then don’t ask him to come. But please do not insult expatriate workers and hurt their dignity. They have come to help and assist us. In this highly-connected global economy, the mass migration of skilled and even unskilled workers has became a necessity.
Why has the United States led Europe? Because over the years, the US has accepted and absorbed those who were determined to work hard in jobs that many Americans would not take. When I was in America, my local barber was a Vietnamese and the laundry lady was a Korean. They worked hard and did a good job. And nobody complained about them.
The key to economic growth is job creation and not replacement. And once again to the expatriate workers in this country, Arabs and non-Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslims, we right-minded Saudis say a big Thank You! May God allow you to realize your dreams.
written by Khaled Almaeena, Editor-at-Large