Jobless Saudi Pharmacists Seek Health Ministry’s Halt to Hiring Expats

As many as 21,530 foreign pharmacists work at more than 8,500 private pharmacies across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia while many Saudi pharmacy college graduates with certificates and professional documents wander around without jobs. Saudi citizens account for only 22% of more than 25,000 pharmaceutical jobs in the Health Ministry.

Available data shows that expatriates dominate the kingdom’s pharmaceutical sector. It seems the ministry of labor and social development is finding it difficult to nationalize jobs in the sector. Many private pharmacies have refused to employ Saudis, employing foreign workers for various unknown reasons.

“Many pharmacies lack serious desire and determination to employ Saudis,” said Dr. Khaled Al-Braikan president of Saudi pharmaceutical society while speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette. He said every pharmacy should have a Saudi Manager. He also called for the need to fix the working hours of pharmacies as per the Kingdom’s Labor laws.

Al-Braikan believes that Saudi pharmacists should be given attractive salaries and benefits in order to encourage them to work in the sector. He commended the joint efforts of the Health, Labor and Social Development Ministries to employ Saudi female pharmacists in community pharmacies.

“This program has resulted in the employment of a substantial number of Saudi women,” he added. Khaled Abalkhail spokesman of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development highlighted his ministry’s efforts in ensuring jobs in the pharmacy sector goes to Saudi citizens in order to prevent the unemployment rate among  Saudis.

During the past five years the Ministry of Health employed 14,188 pharmacists including 1,418 foreigners.

Statistics indicate that of the 25,119 pharmacists who work under the Health ministry, only 22 percent are Saudis. Private hospitals employ 1,599 pharmacists while 46 pharmacists work at medical cities and 1,439 pharmacists in other organizations including factories and warehouses.

The salaries private pharmacies pay to Saudis are still lower than what’s given by government pharmacies. As a result, Saudis are no longer interested in working at private pharmacies.

Ahmed Massawi, a jobless pharmacist who obtained his bachelor’s degree from King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, criticized the health ministry for employing a large number of foreign pharmacists.

A graduate of the pharmaceutical college at KAU, Salwa Al-Harbi, spoke about the difficulties she was facing to get employed ever since she graduated five years ago.

“I am still looking for a job,” she told Okaz. “Where are the pharmaceutical jobs announced by the health ministry?” she asked. Al-Harbi believes that the salary offered by the private sector does not commensurate with her qualification and the years she spent working hard to become a pharmacist.

Dr. Nihad Al-Jeshi, a Shoura council member, said the number of jobless Saudi pharmacists is much higher than what is been reported by the media as there are 20 public pharmaceutical colleges and seven public colleges, which produce large number of graduates every year.

In Jordan, the Ministry of Health does not issue any license to foreign pharmacists to practice in the country. Similarly, many other Arab countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen and Iraq have put restrictions on the employment of foreign pharmacists as well.

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