‘Khalas’: Saudis Halt Unemployment Scheme
Saudi Arabia’s unemployment scheme, Hafiz, instituted in November of 2011, appears to be drawing to a halt. The plan was predicated on providing income assistance to unemployed Saudis while they found jobs. The payments went out as scheduled, but the jobs didn’t appear. As such, the program ends up being a drain on the economy with no benefit to be found, except to those who received direct payments, of course.
This opinion piece, originally appearing in the Arabic daily Okaz, sister paper to Saudi Gazette, argues that the program should continue, at least for another year. The writer notes that the money paid out in unemployment benefits is still less than the money that will be required to solve the problems caused by having tens of thousands of the unemployed. Comments to the piece, however, find that the program is just a give-away of government money.
Why will Hafiz aid end this year?
Khalaf Al-Harbi | Okaz newspaper
THERE was a time when the Ministry of Labor, Shoura Council, media and even economists used to play down the significance of allocating government aid to the unemployed while turning a blind eye to the billions of Saudi riyals squandered on faltering projects. However, unemployment benefits have become a reality today and countless men and women have benefited from the Hafiz program, thanks to King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
Hafiz aid will stop at the end of this Hijri year, i.e. in less than two months, while the Ministry of Labor has failed to create job opportunities for the majority of Hafiz beneficiaries, particularly women who make up the majority of Hafiz recipients, allegedly due to time constraints.
The ministry has been unable to find jobs for 700,000 unemployed male and female Saudis. I believe that the most prominent event of this Hijri year is the decision to stop the Hafiz program and I am hopeful that our kindhearted King will issue an order to extend the Hafiz program for another year.