Riyadh: While seven million jobs were created across Gulf countries between 2000 and 2010, the IMF says nearly 88 per cent of those jobs were filled by foreign workers. To offset grumbling and the prospect of protests by youth demanding access to their nations’ wealth, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies are aggressively backing regulations that open up existing jobs for their own citizens. The kingdom, unlike other Gulf nations, has millions of low-income citizens willing to work the types of jobs that have long been held by Indian, Egyptian, Pakistani and Filipino migrant workers, though perhaps not for the same low wages that can be the equivalent of just several hundred dollars a month.

Anas Al Dahlawi, 30, graduated from top universities in the US thinking he would return to Saudi Arabia, start work immediately and live a comfortable life. But like so many other young Saudis realise soon after graduation, finding a well-paying job in the kingdom is not easy. He teamed up with 23 year-old Ohoud Al Essawi to create online booking services in the kingdom. They found it difficult to find funding, and so Al Essawi enrolled in a public-private partnership programme that helps her with about $13,000 (Dh47,749) in seed money and training. They represent a new generation of Saudis that has access to the world through the Internet and wants a piece of the action. Al Dahlawi says that while the government is trying to catch up with the needs of entrepreneurs, he is struggling to find private investors interested in a startup company. “It’s less about booming the economy and creating jobs,” Al Dahlawi said. “Most of the investors just look for high returns.”