The need for GCC states to create employment opportunities for their nationals has always been one of the most pressing issues they had to face.
It is forecast that by the year 2000 an estimated one million Gulf nationals will enter the labour market. Around half of them are planned to take new jobs, while the remaining half are targeted to fill jobs currently held by expatriates.
Expatriate manpower forms approximately 90 per cent of the workforce in the UAE, 83 per cent in Qatar, 82 per cent in Kuwait, 69 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 60 per cent in Bahrain and the same in Oman.
On current trends the GCC population will rise to 39.4 million by 2010, with the number of those under 19 rising to 21 million. This means an increase of eight million people in the labour market.
So how will the GCC states create employment opportunities for their growing populations?
In a move aimed at finding jobs for 600,000 Saudis by the year 2000, the Kingdom has recently expelled more than 750,000 foreign workers who had been violating residency regulations since an amnesty expired last October. It also adopted new measures limiting the employment term of expatriates in its public sector to 10 years.
Saudi Arabia launched a campaign in July 1997 giving foreign workers three months to legalise their stay or leave. Foreigners, mostly from India, South-east Asia and poor Arab states, make up one third of the country's 18 million population. The Saudi government told private companies to increase their Saudi work force by at least five per cent a year.
Still, Saudi Arabia is finding it difficult to substitute its own people for foreign workers. For years, the Kingdom -- like other oil-rich Arab Gulf states -- has been hiring its citizens for high-paying government jobs.
In the Kingdom an estimated 90 per cent of the two million Saudis, who are part of the workforce, are employed either by the government or state-run companies, such as the oil giant Saudi Aramco. Nearly 3.5 million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia earn about 1,500 riyals ($400) a month or less doing jobs most Saudis wouldn't do.
PRESSURING PRIVATE COMPANIES
Running out of government jobs, GCC states are looking at the private sector to share the burden. The situation is expected to become more critical in the future, since more than 40 per cent of the Gulf's 27 million people are aged 14 and under, according to the International Monetary Fund.
In Oman the Ministry of Labour and...