In the once tax-free petro-state, blue-collar occupations such as cooking, cleaning and working at gas stations have largely been the preserve of foreign workers, who far outnumber Saudis.
Vast wealth and the promise of dramatic change make for cautious optimism concerning Saudi Arabia, the chief executive…232 Views | the publication reaches you by | Saudi Arabia Today
But Saudis are increasingly taking on such “low-status” jobs in a new age of austerity when gas is no longer cheaper than water and unemployment rate is about 13%, with the government trimming oil-funded subsidies and tackling sluggish economic growth and high unemployment. Nearly two-thirds of all Saudis are employed by the government, and the public sector wage bill and allowances account for roughly half of all government expenditure.
“When I started this food truck two years ago many people said: ‘What? You will sell burgers and sandwiches in the street? You come from a big family and big tribe’,” said Bader al-Ajmi, 38, the owner of One Way Burger.
Since Mr. Ajmi started his business, owning a food truck has become the trend du jour and attained a level of respectability. Working inside as a cook apparently still has not. Still, many Saudis are embracing manual labour jobs. For the first time, a new crop of nationals are working as tea sellers and car mechanics. And posh Lexus-owners work as Uber drivers for spare cash.
Last December, residents of eastern Al-Ahsa region feted a handful of young Saudis who swallowed their pride to do another job long deemed dishonourable — working at a gas station.
Mr. Ajmi said his success, which also spotlights the kingdom’s nascent start-up scene, prompted him recently to buy another food truck emblazoned with the “Mercedes Benz” logo — which has added a new veneer of respectability to the job.
“Many people… were against the (food truck),” Mr. Ajmi said. “Now they say: ‘If you have a job, let me know’.”
Do you have information you want to reach our readers?
A photographic tale of the aspirations of four women and their determination to achieve their goals, each one…