Monthly Archives: November 2011


I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, and unfortunately missed out on all the Hajj fun.  Although my students have been taking great pleasure in telling me how many sheep they sacrificed.  My arrival back to SA was massively easier than last time when I had to wait 5 hours.   However, it’s taking me a while to get back into the swing of things here.  If you fail to do so, it can feel like you’re imprisoned sometimes.  But I’m getting there again…it just takes a while to learn to enjoy yourself in different ways to what we’re accustomed to in the west.

Anyway, here’s a link which is interesting (if you’re interested in SA)

I’m not entirely convinced by some of the interviewing.  Firstly, the article says marriage is being delayed by financial constraints.  Not only is this something which would be nigh on impossible to ascertain by interviewing people, but in the west the opposite is generally accepted as being logical:  as people get more comfortable they marry later.   Amongst the even more unscientific sample of my students there is still an eagerness to get married.  They are very confused about how someone my age (28-35) can be unmarried.  The article also later links the higher education of women to the higher marriage age, implying a different causation.  This is not to say that education and wealth are the same thing though.  As the article makes clear this is one of the main problems in SA (and much of the developing world) – education with no opportunities (40% of 20-24 year olds are unemployed).

The article also anticipates the proposed limits on foreign workers (who currently make up over 80% of the private sector) which will come into play next year and should lead to more chances for Saudis to progress within the private sector (although will, according to Citi bankers hurt the economy)

The idea that limited opportunites and changing social ideas are a recipe for protest is perhaps overstating the case though.  My students and some of my fellow teachers believe this is unlikely because of the complacency of much of the younger generation.  Even without great jobs, many of them will live a reasonably comfortable life.  Or is this a biased opinion of those who wish to excuse students’ behaviour or paint a particular picture of Saudis?

Incidentally, the other point which made me question some of the research methods was the interview question to which 84% of women and 65% of men responded affirmatively: 
“I feel that I have the courage and the strength to overcome all the challenges that might be
associated with the working life of women."

I’ve had some training in research methods, and though I’m no expert, I know that this isn’t the best way to gauge whether people feel happy with the progress of women’s rights.
My limited experience concurs with the idea that young Saudis are different and have got differing views about the state, their lives, and the world to the previous generation.  However, I also get the feeling the article is expecting something that might not be forthcoming.  It also seems to want something that may not be desired by many Saudis.  Witness, for instance, the way it talks about Saudi society valuing conformity.  This is a generalisation in my mind, and one which implies conformity is a bad thing.  Could it not just be that individuals desire similar things?  Or that people put society before themselves?  It’s desire for “bold, independent thinking” which (it says) can be driven by international actors seems to stem more from wanting societal change than helping the workforce (precisely how many people who work for large private firms engage in any bold, independent thinking?).  Paradoxically, helping the workforce get jobs may impede any such desire.  Although it would also change the social contract which may affect society’s demands (both areas the article neglects).

I’ve already gone off on a massive tangent so I’ll cut my ramblings short here.


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