Rob L. Wagner روب لستر واقنر

December 25, 2016

Saudi Women Enter Pharmaceutical Retail Industry

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By Rob L. Wagner

The Arab Weekly

18 December 2016

Jeddah – In a significant move that prom­ises to level the playing field for women in the pharmaceutical industry, Saudi Arabia’s Minis­try of Health has agreed to issue licences for women to work in phar­macies and herbal medicine facili­ties.

The decision is a boon for female pharmacists looking for employment in a sector that has been unavailable to them for decades. Pharmaceuti­cal jobs remain available for women in the government sector but their exclusion from private employment limits choices of where to work.

The Ministry of Health reported in 2015 that the kingdom, which has a population of 28.8 million, has about 7,000 privately owned pharmacies, twice the number of the global aver­age in which one pharmacy serves an average of 8,000 potential cus­tomers.

The proliferation of private phar­macies stems in part from the Health Ministry eliminating a requirement that pharmacies must be at least 250 metres apart.

A majority of the kingdom’s phar­macies employ Arab expatriates as workers but the government’s Vi­sion 2030 aims to extend job oppor­tunities not only to Saudi citizens in general, but specifically women. The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry reported that 500 female pharmaceutical students graduated from just one university this year and need jobs.

Ghadi Ghulam, a pharmacist working in a government pharmacy in Jeddah, said she welcomed the advantages jobs in the private sector would offer women.

“It will provide good opportuni­ties for women in general but, in our culture, we must go slow to get peo­ple used to the idea,” she said.

The average salary of a pharma­cist in the private sector is about $20,000 annually, although phar­macists with more than 20 years’ experience can earn as much as $64,000 per year, according to Pay­Sale, which collects data on sala­ries for virtually every profession around the world.

Only about one-quarter of the government-run pharmacies are staffed by women but some private companies are working to boost the number of women working in the profession.

Ahmed S. Dahduli, communica­tions director for AbbVie Biophar­maceuticals, which has offices in Jeddah and Riyadh, said interest among women pharmacists in the private sector is growing. The Chi­cago-based AbbVie provides train­ing programmes for student phar­macists in Saudi Arabia and other countries.

“The female Saudi pharmacist tal­ent pool is significantly large,” Dah­duli said. “When students started the programme with us, only 33% of them expressed interest in consid­ering working in the private sector. At the end of the programme, after witnessing the opportunities and career development plans, more than 75% of them are considering working with the private sector after graduation.”

The AbbVie training programme provides Saudi university students a look at the practicalities and ca­reer possibilities of a pharmacist. The company offers daily summer courses that focus on supply chain management, government and reg­ulatory requirements and quality as­surance among other topics.

Dahduli said Vision 2030 “has placed a significant amount of focus on Saudi human talent”.

“Given the number of pharmacy college graduates and the demand for professionals in the pharmaceu­tical industry in the kingdom, the intent of our programme is to help provide female candidates with the skills that can help them compete for available positions within this important sector,” he said.

Dahduli said there is a great de­mand for Saudi women pharma­cists. Ghulam agreed, noting that although the percentage of women working in government pharmacies is low, employment in the field — whether in the government or pri­vate sector — is available.

“Women would be more than happy to work in either the govern­ment or private sector,” she said.

Employment at private pharma­cies is not just limited to pharma­cists but also to support personnel. Many pharmacies, particularly in shopping malls, count most of their sales in cosmetics with about 30% of sales in medicinal products and pre­scriptions. Pharmacists say female customers prefer speaking with an­other woman when discussing de­tails of their prescriptions.

Other medical-related professions are also expected to open more job opportunities to women, including ophthalmology. For example, 60 of the 68 recent graduating ophthal­mologists at King Saud University were women. This year, an estimat­ed 13,000 women were certified ophthalmologists although jobs in the private sector do not exist for them.


October 23, 2016

No More Job for Life for Saudi Civil Servants

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rob L. Wagner @ 10:33
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By Rob L. Wagner

The Arab Weekly

23 October 2016

Jeddah – Saudi government employ­ees, long immune to get­ting fired even for poor job performance, are fac­ing work performance evaluations that include potential penalties. Yet the learning curve towards administering fair and objective assessments is expected to be daunting.

The Ministry of Civil Service announced a programme in April to have the ministries of Justice, Communications and Information Technology, Transport, Social Af­fairs, Foreign Affairs, Culture and Information, and Agricul­ture develop semi-annual job as­sessments for their employees. The programme was formally launched in October and affects 1.5 million Saudis working in the public sector. It is expected to ex­pand to other ministries.

Under the programme, govern­ment workers can be fired if they fail to improve their work perfor­mance after three years. They can lose bonuses after the first year of unsatisfactory employment, face disciplinary action after the second year and risk dismissal after the third year. Future pay increases may be denied to poorly performing workers.

“Three years is a bit long,” said Kamilia Karayyim, a human re­sources consultant who works in the private sector and academia in Saudi Arabia. “What the heck went on before that?”

Karayyim said there are “many good performance evaluation sys­tems” in place but the quality of work reviews vary. She also said Arab culture was not always the right environment to produce fair and objective work assessments.

“We are an amiable culture,” said Karayyim, noting that unfa­vourable reviews are rare in the workplace. “There is nepotism and favouritism in the system. It will be a challenge. In the private sector there is a little more push because there are profits to con­sider but if there is no clear di­rection, no mission and (employ­ers) are working to do something (develop a new programme) from scratch, it will be a challenge.”

The Civil Service Ministry’s plan calls for five categories in an evaluation: Excellent, very good, good, satisfactory and unsatis­factory. Premium bonuses range from 5-6% for an “excellent” rat­ing to 1-2% for “satisfactory” work.

One university professor, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the plan, said his university had a “quota” in which only a specific percentage of employees receive an equiva­lent to an “A” rating, another spe­cific percentage of workers receive a “B” evaluation, and so on.

“How is that fair and equitable?” he asked. “What if everyone in the department did an excellent job but some have to fail according to the quota system? Or if everyone was a poor performer but some employees must receive an ‘A’ rat­ing?”

He also noted that stated poli­cies, goals and missions in the public sector do not reflect the reality of the workplace in which supervisors may prevent an em­ployee from achieving a required goal or task because of time con­straints, expense or shortage of personnel. The supervisor then could give the employee a lower rating for failing to meet the stat­ed goal.

The professor also said the workplace environment under­mines the goal to administer ob­jective reports.

“Let’s face it, there is a political component in performance evalu­ations that is very problematic and difficult to control,” he said. “There are clashes in cultures, nationalities and tribes that mani­fest themselves in the perfor­mance evaluation.”

Naser Chowdhury, 33, a pub­lic sector worker originally from Mumbai, said homeland politics often spill over into the Saudi workplace.

“We have about 20 guys from dif­ferent regions and countries, all in South Asia, and four of them are supervisors,” Chowdhury said. “Things get very messy and con­fusing when one guy supervises another when their families at home are rivals.”

Karayyim said government workers would have difficulty with the new system following years of receiving positive work assessments.

“They won’t be able to handle it,” she said. “They will resign, take sick leave or get kicked out. For older employees, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Very few will shape up, especially the ones that have been there the longest.”

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Negative performance as­sessments allow government em­ployers to weed out poorly per­forming employees and replace them with highly motivated and productive workers with a work ethic. More efficient workers end up helping Saudi Arabia’s strug­gling economy. An objective work evaluation will become an impor­tant tool when some ministries become privatised and workers must reapply for their jobs.

Karayyim said 2017 would be a critical period for the transition. “I think 2018 should be better,” she said.

Chowdhury said there is a silver lining in the programme. “Even­tually, it will work itself out and, at long last, there will be account­ability for those workers who don’t do their job. I am optimis­tic,” he said.

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