Port employment in eastern Saudi Arabia : problems and prospects
Social, cultural and economic influences have combined to create a shortage of national manpower in Saudi Arabia. This study aims to investigate the extent of those shortages in port labour. The main focus is on port labour problems and prospects in the ports of Eastern Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Gulf, the selected ports being Jubail, Ras Tannurah and Dammam. The thesis is divided into two main parts. The first deals with setting the scene including analysis of development planning and manpower problems as well as the impacts of cultural and social background on labour supply. This part also includes an analysis of port hinterland and an investigation of port labour management of the studied ports. The second part includes field investigation starting with general characteristics of port labour, training problems, the problems of housing and the journey to work and how employees from various organisations in ports suffer from commuting problems. This part also includes discussion of employees' perceptions of various factors leading to shortage of indigenous manpower in port work. Finally, in order to present a clear understanding of employment problems and port labour prospects, investigation of employees' job satisfaction is undertaken. This will be particularly relevant during the transfer of port operations to the private sector. The study findings indicate that the majority of port employees are expatriates. Little has been achieved to increase recruitment of national manpower among port private contractors. It was found that the manufacturing sector was prominent in the port and port-related industries, particularly in Ras Tannurah and Jubail ports. The increased use of new cargo handling techniques in those ports reduced the dependence on low paid labour-intensive work, which is mainly carried out by expatriate labourers. However, trade sector activities continued to depend on foreign labour in stevedoring, containerisation and other technical port work which is mainly conducted by port contractors. There was little evidence that privatisation of port operation will increase recruitment of domestic manpower. This study shows that most public vocational schools and training centres did not provide the port sector with adequate skilled national manpower. A model was suggested to benefit from those institutions by on- the-job training leading to full-time employment. However, due to the tribal background of most of Saudi individuals, it has been found that several behavioural attitudes prevail which have a negative effect on training and other work issues. It was revealed that long distance and time of commuting, along with weather conditions clearly make training rather unattractive to most port employees. Regarding national manpower shortages in the port sector, it was revealed that the beneficial effect of the lower cost of hiring foreign employees was seen as affecting the recruitment of Saudis in ports. However all segments of employees showed low levels of satisfaction with pay and other port job benefits.