Oct 092014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/02/09RIYADH289.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09RIYADH289
2009-02-11 14:27
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Riyadh

VZCZCXRO8604
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHROV
DE RUEHRH #0289/01 0421427
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 111427Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0161
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0336
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0337
RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA 0712
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RIYADH 000289

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/ARP AND G/TIP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2017
TAGS: ELAB PHUM PREL PGOV KWMN KTIP SA RP
SUBJECT: DEPUTY LABOR MINISTER DENIES HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN KINGDOM, SAYS SAUDI JOB MARKET RELATIVELY UNAFFECTED BY GLOBAL ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

Classified By: Charge D’Affaires Sandra Muench for reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d).

¶1. (C) Key Points
—————–

— Deputy Labor Minister denied human trafficking is a
problem in Saudi Arabia.

— He asserted Saudi women are active participants in the
workforce, unless they choose to abstain for social reasons.

Comment
——-

¶2. (C) We found it bizarre that the Deputy Minister would
repeatedly and emphatically deny the existence of human
trafficking when many other Saudi officials working on this
issue have been willing to discuss the problem, and what they
are doing about it, with us. Our best guess is that the
issue is sensitive, and his denials probably were intended as
a defensive tactic rather than a statement of Saudi
government policy. He did not deny the existence of problems
that the USG considers trafficking; however, his attempt to
describe gross labor violations as relatively uncommon,
perhaps revealed a lack of sensitivity to the very real
suffering of some foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. End
comment.

¶3. (C) On February 9, Econcouns met Deputy Labor Minister for
Planning and Development Dr. Mufarraj Saad bin al-Haqbani for
a courtesy call. Al-Haqbani spoke extensively on the Saudi
labor market, women in the Saudi workforce, and addressed
reports of trafficking in persons in Saudi Arabia.

Financial crisis so far
not increasing unemployment
—————————

¶4. (C) The Deputy Labor Minister expressed optimism for the
new U.S. administration and said he hoped the world economy
would recover soon from the recent crisis. With regard to
job losses in Saudi Arabia, al-Haqbani said there have not
been many layoffs and in general, Saudi employment is not
extremely affected by this crisis “as you are in the United
States.” He also said the Ministry of Labor has drafted a
new, job-creating labor strategy that is before the Saudi
Supreme Economic Council.

Saudi women who want jobs
(many don’t) can get them
————————-

¶5. (C) Al-Haqbani said the numbers of women working are
increasing every year as more women are obtaining advanced
degrees. He also said women are encouraged to work and are
employed in many sectors, including as healthcare
professionals, as administrators, and in finance and
education. (Note: In December, the Saudi Gazette reported
that the Ministry of Labor informed companies that the
employment of one Saudi woman is the equivalent of two Saudi
men in terms of fulfilling the private sector’s Saudization
requirement to have 70% of a company’s employees be Saudi
citizens. End note.) Al-Haqbani also noted that while the
female unemployment rate nominally hover around 23%, the
actual number is significantly lower since women in Saudi
Arabia frequently choose not to work. He acknowledged that
there was social pressure not to work but also noted that
many Saudi women prefer not to work because that decision is
viewed by Saudis as conferring status on the woman and her
family. Al-Haqbani emphasized these women’s decision to stay
home and “be taken care of” by their fathers or husbands is
“not because of workplace discrimination, and it is not
because of religious reasons. It is purely for social
reasons.”

Deputy Labor Minister
Denies trafficking problem
————————–

¶6. (C) When asked about the incidence of trafficking in
persons in the Kingdom, al-Haqbani became agitated and

RIYADH 00000289 002 OF 002

forcefully denied that trafficking occurs in Saudi Arabia.
(Note: This contravenes other SAG communications which
acknowledge trafficking, although not the full extent of the
problem. End Note.) He said, “If you have 5 million foreign
workers in the Kingdom, and 2 thousand complain, how can you
say that is a problem?” He added that the ambassador of the
Philippines recently told the Minister of Labor tht 98% of
Filipinos working in the Kingdom report that they are content
with conditions here. The Deputy Labor Minister further
expressed disdain for the definition of trafficking as
including restrictions on freedom of movement, withholding of
wages or passports, and physical abuse by employers.
MUENCH

   

 

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