Recession seems to drive people to desparation. Not one country in the world can claim to have escaped the current downturn. Saudi Arabia is no exception, though the degree of recession is not as bad as some neighboring countries.
I have been frequently getting requests from people asking whether I could arrange a job for them in Saudi Arabia. No, these requests are not from the not-so-educated, but from professionals who would otherwise have normally picked and chosen their jobs. Apart from the fact that I am not an employment agent, this just left me wondering the extent to which people would go to somehow get "some job" in Saudi Arabia. People tend to think that this is a land of milk and honey. Far from it.
Expatriates planning to work in Saudi Arabia must remember something. Unless the economy is booming, there wouldn't be enough jobs and even if there are, they wouldn't be paying as much as one would normally expect. Afterall, if your employer doesn't make money, how do you expect him to pay you? True, there is no income tax in this country, so what?. There is a misconception that just because there is no tax, life is really easy here. Nothing can be farther from truth.
When I first arrived in the kingdom more than a decade ago, it still wasn't that bad. People used to keep their cars unlocked with the engines running and go into shops to get a can of Pepsi. No one was bothered about the safety of the cars or about the valuables kept inside them. Burglary was extremely rare and one could hardly see any beggars at traffic lights. Malls used to be packed with people. Ramadan was a time when people regularly changed their furniture, even though they were almost new. Expats used to hunt second hand markets only to get their hands on these near-new pieces! Companies were generous in their pay and bonus and truly, this was indeed paradise.
Times are tough and how they change people within a span of 10 years! Employment has become scarce, and a growing local population yearning for more , wouldn't settle for anything less than the best. Plum managerial jobs occupied by expats have all vanished. Labor offices have their hands full with complaints by expats of unpaid / delayed salaries. Saudization, or replacing expats with Saudis, is the in-thing here. Sporadic attacks on expats are definitely there, and though they are not common, the very fact that they do occur once in a while definitely unnerves the expat community. So where do we go from here?
I do not want to paint a pessimistic picture though. All said and done, Saudi Arabia is still the best place where one can save money in the Middle East, for the simple reason that there aren't just many outlets where you can spend as compared to, say the UAE. Huge cities are being planned. New Universities are coming up. Grand plans have been drawn to give a boost to the economy. It would take a while before these bear fruit, but until then one must have perseverance. If you have the right skills, the opportunities are still there, but the days are long gone when people without qualifications and experience could simply walk in and get "some job". If you have the right skills and experience, you have a chance otherwise you are out. It's that simple.
Let's just hope that we quickly get out of this recession. After all, tough times do not last, tough people do!