The Saudi Job Creation and Human Resources Development Forum started here on Monday with a call for new Saudiisation strategies, local English daily Arab News reported.

The two-day conference, organised by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry (JCCI) and the Jeddah Marketing Board (JMB) in conjunction with Middle East Economic Digest (MEED), focused on the latest developments in Saudi Arabian human resource recruitment and development.

Creating employment for young Saudi Arabians had for decades been "a priority" for the Saudi government, Edmund O'Sullivan, editorial director of MEED, said in his opening address.

He said: "The challenge for the future is to maintain the record of success and extending it to the emerging sectors of the economy, the largest in the Middle East," he added.

Amongst the subjects discussed at the forum were the merits of setting a Saudi minimum wage. In his presentation, Richard J. Tyner, attorney for the law offices of Dr. Mujahid M. Al Sawwaf, said a minimum wage could be a solution to some lingering Saudiisation issues.

"A minimum wage would be a useful way to increase Saudiisation in a more natural way than by reserving certain job positions for Saudis or by requiring quotas," he said.

"Many expatriates are relatively low-paid, especially labourers from South Asia. If there were a minimum wage, then the salaries of such low-paid expatriates would have to increase - decreasing their desirability as a source of cheap labour.

"If there is a position and there are Saudi and foreign applicants for it, and both would be receiving the same wage, then by definition the Saudi worker should be cheaper. There would not be any cost of recruitment in the foreign country. There would be no home leave tickets. There would be no need to provide housing.

"The only expense for the Saudi employee would be General Organisation of Social Insurance payment for the annuities branch nine per cent," he added.

The forum also showcased the latest in recruitment methods. In his presentation Youssef Berrada, a recruitment consultant for Al Kawader discussed recruitment options in Saudi Arabia, and exploring methods of finding skilled and experienced Saudi workers.

"Recruitment sounds simple, but is much harder than most people think. I would like to see dozens of recruitment firms mushrooming over the years forming alliances with universities, companies, local and foreign agencies and government," he said.