Blaming Expats For Our Problems Doesn’t Help Anyone

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Expatriates make up a third of Saudi Arabia's 30 million population.
Expatriates make up a third of Saudi Arabia’s 30 million population.

We Saudis always take pride in our generosity in hosting our guests, yet after we accept hosting nine million people and after some of them have lived among us so long that they call the Kingdom “home”, some Saudis blame them and make them scapegoats for our social problems, which is not only ungracious, but also does not solve any of our problems

NAWAR FAKHRY EZZI

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE first step in solving a problem is to acknowledge it and then to study its causes in order to find possible solutions.

In recent years, Saudis have witnessed great development in addressing social and environmental problems, which include unemployment, the scarcity of water, the rapid increase of industrialization leading to more pollution and solid waste and the insufficient supply of medical centers and health care services, along with other services, such as electricity and sewage removal.

According to a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report, the causes of these problems include rural-urban migration in Saudi Arabia, the country’s high fertility rate in comparison with low infant mortality, and international immigration.

It is a shame that some Saudis seem to dismiss all of these causes and place the blame for many of these problems, especially unemployment, on the existence of expatriates in Saudi Arabia!  In general, international migration consist of expatriates, who could be permanent residents or temporary workers, illegal aliens and refugees.

Saudi Arabia has its fair share of all of these groups, and in the case of illegal aliens, the government has taken extreme measures to reduce their number as they contribute to many dangerous problems, such as an increase in crime and human trafficking, as well as exposing themselves to exploitation by some Saudis who seek the advantages of cheap labor.

The number of expatriate workers is also relatively high in Saudi Arabia accounting for roughly one third of the Kingdom’s population.

However, unlike illegal workers, they reside legally in the country with valid visas issued by the government. This means that their basic needs including housing, food, schools for their children and health care must be accommodated.

The fact that they hold jobs in the Saudi job market is a problem that should be addressed on the policy level because it is neither their problem nor their fault that 12 million Saudis and millions more in the coming years are going to be unemployed.

Moreover, according to the International Monetary Fund, 85 percent of expatriates in Saudi Arabia are employed in low-skilled jobs, which Saudis are not willing to take in the first place.

Thus, it makes no sense that we need these expatriates to build our hospitals and schools, but we do not want them to use such facilities because they will burden the Kingdom’s budget with their “unnecessary” expenses as some Saudis have suggested recently!

An important factor that contributes to unemployment in Saudi Arabia is an entirely Saudi social problem that relates to our high fertility rate resulting in a sociological phenomenon known as the “youth bulge”.

This is defined as “a stage of development where a country achieves success in reducing infant mortality but mothers still have a high fertility rate.

The result is that a large share of the population is comprised of children and young adults”. As the young grow to the age of entering the workforce, they create a “demographic bomb” according to Justin Yifu Lin, a former World Bank chief economist and senior vice president, where the typical age pyramid of a society is distorted, which burdens the country and leads to many deficiencies in the system including unemployment.

Currently, 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population is below the age of 25 and this percentage will continue to increase until 2035 according to statistical predictions.

Another major problem leading to the insufficient supply of urban services is the disproportionate distribution of the population in Saudi Arabia.

According to the UNDP report, 65 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia is densely populated in the regions of Makkah (25.5 percent), followed by Riyadh (24.9 percent) and the Eastern region (14.6 percent) out of the existing 13 regions in the Kingdom indicating over-urbanization, where people are disproportionately leaving rural areas for urban areas.

The same regions are the home of most expatriates as well, with Makkah region containing most of the non-Saudi population.

Thus, accelerated urbanization has led to the problem that the increase in urban services cannot accommodate the rapid increase in the population of these areas causing the depletion of natural resources and an insufficient number of medical facilities in comparison to the number of people.

International migration is one of the many challenges that much of the world is facing nowadays and it is not likely to get any better.

The world might not be experiencing a Third World War, but according to the United Nations, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people, who have fled their homes, but not their countries, is the highest since World War II.

Thus, when the problems of Saudi Arabia are addressed and immigration emerges as one of the causes of a social problem, it should be considered as such and people should recognize that expatriate workers are only one of three migration groups, with illegal aliens and refugees being the other two.

We Saudis always take pride in our generosity in hosting our guests, yet after we accept hosting nine million people and after some of them have lived among us so long that they call the Kingdom “home”, some Saudis blame them and make them scapegoats for our social problems, which is not only ungracious, but also does not solve any of our problems. –-Courtesy Saudi Gazette

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