Studies show need for intensive work ethics training in Saudi Arabia

Saudi public sector employees give little priority to hard work and setting goals of achievement

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A number of studies have shown that the majority of Saudi public sector employees give little priority to hard work and setting goals of achievement. Most instead care about incentives and allowances when in fact they have alarmingly low productivity levels.

Why do Saudi employees not have an appreciation for hard work and why are their performance levels significantly lower than their expatriate counterparts? Why are they not serious or ambitious about their jobs? To find answers to these questions, Al-Riyadh daily spoke to several experts in the field.


Muhammad Al-Qahtani, a human resources employee, believes that the poor productivity level of a Saudi employee can be attributed to several reasons.

“If we want to solve this problem, we cannot highlight one reason and ignore the others. Academic qualifications, salaries, training programs and incentives play an important role in explaining these low performance levels,” Al-Qahtani said.

Dr. Awad Al-Radadi, a former undersecretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said the Ministry of Economy and Planning reported that the productivity of a public sector employee is only one hour while in some countries it reaches seven hours.

“This is an incredibly low level that needs to be studied extensively. Transforming our society to a knowledge-based one is the only solution,” Al-Radadi said. He called for linking promotions and raises to an employee’s performance level in order to improve the productivity of employees.

He quoted a study that reported the daily productivity level of an Arab employee ranges from 18 to 25 minutes. Bureaucracy, disguised unemployment and failure to train employees were the culprits, the study noted.

“Look at Japan and Malaysia and see how they invested in their citizens and improved the academic levels of graduates. The funds allocated to training should be increased in order to improve the skills of employees,” he said.

Abdullah Al-Yami, recruitment manager at a private company, said it is wrong to generalize and say all public sector employees are not productive.

“Actually, some of them have high productivity levels. Financial incentives are linked to the productivity of an employee. I’ve read that some countries are working on reducing the hours an employee spends sitting at his desk by allowing them to work from the comfort of their homes. Some employees might spend hours sitting at their desks doing nothing while others can produce a lot in a few hours,” he said.

Dr. Hussain Al-Hazmi, a professor of sociology, believes most public sector employees are dissatisfied with their jobs and that is why their productivity levels are so low.

“If an employee is appointed to a position that does not match his academic qualifications, his performance and productivity are bound to hit rock bottom. The mechanisms used for appointments should be reconsidered and redesigned,” he said.

Dr. Muhammad Al-Kasnawi, also a professor of sociology, said most employees waste time eating and gossiping due to poor monitoring on the part of supervisors. He blamed families for their failure to instill the values of hard work in their children’s minds.

Waleed Al-Nahed, an economic expert, blamed the mechanisms used by the Ministry of Civil Services to recruit employees. The system does not differentiate between jobs that require physical efforts and those that are mentally demanding.

“How can two officials, one doing physical work and the other mental work, be put on equal footing when it comes to salaries and other benefits? We need to apply effective classification criteria to identify the skills and capabilities of each and every job applicant in order to put the right person in the right place,” he suggested.

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