In the past two years, Saudi Arabia has taken major steps in a bid to open up new job opportunities for nationals and reduce its reliance on foreign labor.
In fact, the country recorded its highest-ever unemployment rate among citizens last year. Some believe this is mainly because the majority of Saudis refuse to take up minimum-wage jobs, which are mostly filled by expats. These include occupations like waitressing, chauffeuring, and other service jobs.
We asked a few young Saudis whether or not they'd be willing to work in such professions and here's what they told us:
"It isn't my ambition to work in low-wage professions"
Speaking to StepFeed, 24-year-old Saudi law graduate Abdullah said he'd only consider taking a minimum-wage job if he really needed to and it'd be a temporary thing.
"It isn't my ambition to work in low-wage professions, not because I disregard them, but because I studied in order to build a certain future for myself and don't see such jobs taking me anywhere," he said.
"If I were to take a job as a server or waiter, it'd be a temporary thing, maybe while I am studying for my doctorate or something like that. But I certainly wouldn't consider it as a long-term career path because it would destroy my future prospects in marriage, social life and basically everything," he added.
"Any Saudi who's a college graduate would want a high-paying, respectable job"
Hend, a 28-year-old business executive, explained why she'd never consider taking up a low-wage job.
"I personally wouldn't work in a low-paying profession because I don't feel I need to, financially. I understand I am privileged and I am thankful for that. I know so many people aren't, including a lot of Saudis. Therefore, I respect and admire those who take up such professions to make a living or to build a better future for themselves," she said.
"Also, any Saudi who's a college graduate would want a high-paying, respectable job in their own country and I think it's their right to demand that especially when there are so many expats who are being given such jobs," she added.
"I think most Saudis are too overqualified to be hired in low-wage jobs"
Speaking to StepFeed, Mohamed, a 27-year-old Saudi engineer, weighed in on the matter saying:
"To me, the problem isn't that we don't want to work in such professions or that we look down on them. I think most Saudis are too overqualified to be hired in low-wage jobs and that's why we aren't hired in these spots," he said.
"I graduated with a degree in civil engineering and my government actually paid for my studies outside the kingdom to ensure that when I come back, I'll benefit my country. Therefore, I would certainly want a job that's in my field of study and that'll allow me to give back to my homeland. I don't think a minimum-wage job would help me do that," he added.
"I don't have a problem with any job, but our society does"
In a statement to StepFeed, Ala'a, a 25-year-old master's student, said she'd have no problem taking up a low-wage job but is hesitant due to the environment she lives in.
"Honestly, I don't have a problem with any job, but our society does. People here correlate work with social class, so if you work as a cashier, they'll look down on you and see you as someone who's below them. This is the reason why so many young Saudis like me are reluctant to take up such jobs, even when they need them," she said.
"If I tell my family that I am going to work as a cashier or assistant, they wouldn't allow me to. They'd worry about what people would think of me. This is what things are like in Saudi," she added.
"I'd take up a minimum-wage job again anytime, regardless of what people think"
Aziz, a 30-year-old Saudi business manager, said he'd be willing to work in jobs deemed only fit for expats anytime.
"So many people here think these jobs are below them, but they're certainly not. It's shameful for anyone to think that they're too good to be working in any kind of profession," he said.
"When I was starting out in my career, I worked as a server in a local coffee shop. Some people were so surprised that I was a Saudi who was serving them coffee, because it's quite uncommon here. Some would rather go hungry than work in low-wage jobs. Why? Because our own society gives us a hard time if we do such work. But I'd take up a minimum-wage job again anytime, regardless of what people think. I believe in Saudi talent and know that when we set our minds to achieve something, we'll do it, no matter in what field," he explained.
"I've been unemployed for three years, I'd take up any job now"
Speaking to StepFeed, Mona, a 29-year-old business graduate, says she doesn't see anything wrong with taking these jobs.
"For many Saudis, the current argument is over the fact that so many jobs opening up in the kingdom aren't high-ranking. I was discussing this with a group of friends and most agreed that expats who are still in the country hold management positions, while Saudis are being asked to accept low-wage jobs," she said.
"I understand this argument, but I don't agree with it. I've been waiting for a proper job for so long. I've been unemployed for three years, I'd take up any job now because I realized we've all got to start somewhere and there's no shame in that. There will always be this stigma and family pressure on you to be a manager or this or that, but if we cave in to that, we'll never find work. That's the reality of it," she added.