A Century in Saudi’s Labor Market

I have talked previously about working generations, but the problem with it was that the working generations were focused mainly about people in the United States of America, So for over a year now, I have been putting aside some time to research what type of generations that are in Saudi Arabia, and for the past three months I have dedicated adequate time to focus on this matter, and as a result, we have “A Century in Saudi’s Labor Market”:

A Century in Saudi's Labor Market

A Century in Saudi’s Labor Market

Saudi Arabia has the world’s second largest oil reserves and the sixth largest natural gas reserves. Thus I have looked at the Saudis and the way they work, and got the following Generations:

 

  • Pre-Oil Generation:

    Pre-Oil Generation

    Pre-Oil Generation

This is the Generation that entered the workforce before the oil was found (1938) of course the time back then were different, having grown up in the time where King Abdulaziz was uniting the now known as Saudi Arabia.

      • Influences:

Since information was not flowing as it is now, this generation was mostly influenced by King Abdulaziz’s conquests and the emerging awareness of Islam. Additionally, trade was a large influence and tribal mentality was one of the greatest factors in their life.

      • Characteristics:

Honest, hard worker, tribal mentality, humble, coming to the rescue of one in need.

      • Pros:

Honest, hard worker, community oriented, humble, coming to the rescue of one in need.

      • Cons:

Uneducated, Xenophobic (unreasonable fear or hatred of the unfamiliar), Closed minded (except coastal cities such as Al-Ahsaa, Mecca, Jeddah, Al-Madinah due to trade and religious visitors often visits).

      • Workplace:

Back then almost everyone was working with a craft, sheep herding, or in a farm, some joined King Abdulaziz in his conquests. And few were dealing in with trades, which means either in farms or workshops or traveling.

      • Work Philosophy (why they work):

Day by Day: To get enough to cover the day’s expenses.

 

  • Oil Generation:
Oil Generation

Oil Generation

This is the Generation that entered the workforce during the oil era of Saudi Arabia (1938 to 1960), of course the time back then were different, having grown up in the time where King Abdulaziz was just finishing uniting the now known as Saudi Arabia. Additionally, entering the workforce when they were needed the most as rig workers or have worked in the building of the Tapline or the construction of the railroad or joining the newly established (Military Industries Corporation), and that entailed that they had to work in remote areas far from their families. This generation had the opportunity to learn first hand from the expert foreigners the vital knowledge in labor works. It is also noteworthy to mention that during this time most of the ministries were being created.

      • Influences:

Since information was not flowing as it is now, this generation was mostly influenced by the newly found Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and of course the oil exploration. Additionally, tribal mentality was still a factor at that time.

      • Characteristics:

Strong, hard worker, Individuals, trained after joining the workforce, some continued education.

      • Pros:

Strong, hard worker, labor oriented, unprejudiced towards labor work.

      • Cons:

Uneducated, inexpressive, reserved, inexperienced.

      • Workplace:

This is the times where Saudis worked as laborers in remote areas.

      • Work Philosophy (why they work):

Hitch by Hitch: They will go to the location of the work and work for months, and get back with enough money to cover all expenses and some savings.

 

  • Aramco Generation:
Aramco Generation

Aramco Generation

This is the Generation that entered the workforce during the first economic boom of Saudi Arabia A.K.A. “Tafrah(1960 to 1980),  This generation grew up seeing their fathers and uncles go to remote areas and come back home with enough money to feed them and save some for emergencies, but they also felt the weights on their shoulders and the could have seen the tough times that they have been through. This generation had the opportunity to learn first hand from the expert foreigners the vital knowledge in administration and management.

      • Influences:

Since information was not flowing as it is now, This generation was influenced by the oil generation and by the newly arriving foreigners “even if it was just stories about them”.

      • Characteristics:

Smart, hard worker, Individuals, started strategic thinking.

      • Pros:

Smart, hard worker, admin oriented, unprejudiced towards foreigners, detailed, started education after work, economically better.

      • Cons:

Uneducated, demeaning outlook towards labor jobs, process over goals, resistance to change.

      • Workplace:

This is the times where Saudis started to enter the administration side.

      • Work Philosophy (why they work):

Month-by-month: They have started to budget on a month-by-month basis.

 

  • Boomer Generation:

    Boomer Generation

    Boomer Generation

This is the Generation that entered the workforce age exactly after the first economic boom of Saudi Arabia A.K.A. “Tafrah” (1980 to 1990), This generation grew up seeing their fathers and uncles work in offices with expats, they saw the effect of education on the career. This generation had the opportunity to actually be properly educated in “proper” education systems, they also witnessed the beginning of women education, This generation entered the workforce where high positions were readily available for most Saudis.  It is also during this generation there was a significant increase in the numbers of foreign workers after the oil crisis.

      • Influences:

This generation was mostly influenced by TVs, Telephones, Newspapers, the resignation of king Saud and the assassination of King Faisal, the establishment of companies such as: PetroMin, Sabic, SCECO, Saudi Oger, and the government acquiring 100% of Saudi Aramco.

      • Characteristics:

Smart, hard worker, family oriented, working towards an individual goal.

      • Pros:

Highly loyal to their companies, admin&mgmt + engineering oriented, relationship focused.

      • Cons:

Management style, Some Narcissism due to being raised in a luxurious era, Self-centered, technologically impaired, reluctant to change, not budget minded, quick to criticize, diffusion of responsibilities, short-tempered.

      • Workplace:

This is the times where Saudis have management roles.

      • Work Philosophy (why they work):

Career towards retirement.

 

  • Gulf War Generation:
Gulf War Generation

Gulf War Generation

This is the Generation that entered the workforce age during (and after) the gulf war. (1990 to 2000), This generation also grew up seeing their fathers and uncles work in offices with expats, they saw the effect of education on the career. This generation , entered the workforce with significantly less western management, and a higher number of Saudis.  It is also important to mention that unfortunately for this generation, the job market wasn’t good, due to the war, budgets has been frozen, position has been made redundant.

      • Influences:

This generation (similar to the one before it) was mostly influenced by TVs, Telephones, the assassination of King Faisal, the establishment of companies such as: Sabic, SCECO, Saudi Oger, and Almarai and the government acquiring 100% of Saudi Aramco.

      • Characteristics:

Educated, hard worker, family oriented, working towards an individual goal.

      • Pros:

Highly loyal to their companies, admin&mgmt + engineering oriented, relationship focused.

      • Cons:

Management style, Some Narcissism due to being raised in a luxurious era, Self-centered, technologically impaired, reluctant to change, not budget minded, quick to criticize, short-tempered, diffusion of responsibility.

      • Work Philosophy  (why they work):

Career towards retirement.

 

  • Millennium Generation:
Millennium Generation

Millennium Generation

This is the Generation that entered the workforce age after the new millennium. (2000 to 2010), This generation grew up seeing their fathers and uncles work in offices  with some responsibilities, they saw the effect of a higher education and specialization on the career. This generation had the opportunity to actually be properly educated and even get a higher education e.g. Master’s Degree, they also witnessed the beginning of women entering the workforce, but what differs here is the internet. This generation had the internet growing up, and thus enabling them to explore even more information. Also, the raise and fall of the stock market have affected many Saudi nationals. Additionally, after the new millennium the job market started to offer better salaries, but positions were still limited.

      • Influences:

This generation has been influenced mainly by the internet and the speed of transferring information, additionally it was influenced by the Gulf War, the cell phone, new millennium, and terrorism events, the raise and fall of the stock market, the establishments of companies such as Maaden, STC. Additionally, the establishment of Saudi joint stock companies such as: Tasnee, Sipchem, SAHARA, and Advanced Petrochemicals company.

      • Characteristics:

Smart, tech savvy, family oriented (close family only), working towards self-development.

      • Pros:

Smart, leadership oriented, open-minded, fast, multitasking, globally aware.

      • Cons:

Easily distracted, quickly bored, short attention span, inexperienced, job hoppers, work isn’t everything, wants management roles fast.

      • Workplace:

This is the times where the job market started to offer better compensation and benefits, but positions were still scares.

      • Work Philosophy (why they work):

Work to enjoy Life.

 

  • Scholarship Generation:
Scholarship Generation

Scholarship Generation

This is the Generation that entered the workforce age during (and after) the Arab spring. (2010 to 2020), This generation grew up seeing their fathers and uncles work in offices  with some responsibilities, they saw the effect of a higher education and specialization on the career. This generation had the opportunity to actually be properly educated and even get a higher education e.g. Master’s Degree and professional certifications, they also witnessed even more women entering the workforce, but what differs here is the internet. This generation had the internet growing up, and thus enabling them to explore even more information. Also, the raise and fall of the stock market have affected many Saudi nationals. Additionally, during (and after) the Arab spring the job market started to offer better salaries, and positions started to be made more available.

      • Influences:

This generation has been influenced mainly by the internet and the speed of transferring information, additionally it was influenced by the Gulf War, the cell phone, new millennium, and terrorism events, the raise and fall of the stock market,  the establishments of companies such as Maaden, STC, SATORP, SADARA. Additionally, the establishment of Saudi joint stock companies such as: Tasnee, Sipchem, SAHARA, and Advanced Petrochemicals company. Also, the mass scholarship program instigated by King Abdullah.

      • Characteristics:

Smart, tech savvy, family oriented (close family only), working towards self-development.

      • Pros:

Smart, leadership oriented, open-minded, fast, multitasking, globally aware.

      • Cons:

Easily distracted, quickly bored, short attention span, inexperienced, extreme job hoppers, work isn’t everything, wants management roles fast.

      • Workplace:

This is the times where the job market started to offer better compensation and benefits, and positions were starting to open up (due to the huge expanding projects, and the retirement of most of the Aramco & Boomer generations).

      • Work Philosophy (why they work):

Work to enjoy Life

 

Special thanks to Eng. Sadeem Al-Jibreen for the artwork in this article.

6 thoughts on “A Century in Saudi’s Labor Market

  1. Mashallah, very analytical thinking, you analyzed the characteristic of each generation just like we lived it.
    Grate job Hamad, wish you the best.

  2. Thanks for trying to analyze the generations of Saudi Arabia but I think this oversimplifies things. There are several nuances between the generations in shargiyah, jeddah, and Riyadh which are not captured here. E.g., the majority of Saudis in riyadh work in the public sector and most would struggle to call them hard working.

    • Dear Abu Abdullah,

      First of all, let me thank you on taking the time and engaging with me in this article.

      I would like to comment on two things that you mentioned,
      1: “this oversimplifies things”
      Actually, you will need volumes of books if you want to get into details, and it could be a good starting point if anyone wanted to expand, additionally, simplification is important especially in these fast paced detailed mentality we have.

      2: I wrote an article expanding on the sectors in Saudi: http://www.hrmasterkey.com/2013/09/15/sectors-in-saudi-arabia/
      Hopefully it will show that your idea is captured.

      Again, thank you for your feedback, and should you have more to add,,, please don’t hesitate, as this will only result in refining this article.

      Accept my kindest regards,
      Hamad S. Al-Jibreen
      Associate CIPD

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