Saudi Arabia is embarking on its most ambitious economic reform for decades. As Hayley Platt reports the government is trying to move hundreds of thousands of people into private sector jobs.
TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS~**NONE** Working as a car mechanic in Saudi Arabia has traditionally been seen as a job for foreigners. But times are changing. The government has introduced new labour reforms to entice Saudis' out of the public sector and into private enterprise. It's offering help to pay for training. And improve working conditions by limiting working hours. Safi Al-Shamrani is learning the ropes in his father's car repair business. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SAFI AL-SHAMRANI, SON OF OWNER OF CAR REPAIR CENTRE, SAYING : "The Labour market in our country is wide and open and there are many opportunities with big financial gains, it just needs some hard work with a lot of effort and determination." The government began the reforms in a bid to head off political unrest after the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011. By the end of 2013 more than 15% of workers were employed in the private sector - compared to less than 10% four years earlier. Reducing unemployment and state dependency is the aim, in a country where half the 20 million residents are foreign. Most of them work in construction, transport and services - considered too low paid by many Saudis. Not Jaber Al-Absi though - he works as a chef's assistant at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. (SOUNBITE)(Arabic) JABER AL-ABSI, CHEF ASSISTANT AT THE RITZ CARLTON HOTEL IN RIYADH ,SAYING: "I am a young Saudi man who has always loved cooking. My ambition is to be a senior chef but society's perception about such jobs makes it difficult. They are seen as something to be ashamed of." The initiative has been slow to take off. But it is gathering momentum. The challenge now will be to create enough jobs to combat unemployment and ensure economic growth.