Objectives and Scope
All too often in the past, Saudi Arabia has been perceived as a ‘monolithic’ homogeneous society with ‘Saudi youth’ also treated as a ‘one size fits all’. Yet, clearly this erroneous perception disregards the diversity of Saudi society, communities and culture. This is especially significant as in recent years the Kingdom’s diverse societies and communities have undergone significant change. Nevertheless, the Kingdom’s demographics are vital to understanding challenges facing Saudi Arabia. At least 60 per cent of the total population is less than 30 years old. Moreover, improved educational standards, the impact of online public opinion and demands for greater government transparency via increased social media usage have raised expectations of more government accountability as well as increased participation in decision-making processes. Yet, change is challenging—so, not surprisingly, there is a degree of anxiety amongst some young nationals about the socio-economic and socio-cultural transitions occurring in Saudi Arabia that are impacting on Saudi norms. What is also salient is that the concerns of young Saudis are often remarkably similar to those of their peers in other parts of the world: worrying about finding a suitable job, being able to get on the housing ladder and coping with the rising cost of living.
The overall goal of the workshop is to encourage scholars and practitioners to better understand the complexity of Saudi youth issues in a globalized and transforming Kingdom. The workshop focusses on dilemmas, challenges and opportunities present in the contemporary socio-economic, socio-political and cultural spheres as well as ways and means by which these can be addressed. Underpinning this is the necessity of understanding ‘policy relevance’ as related to youth policy formulation and implementation. Therefore, some of the questions animating this workshop could include, but are not limited to the following:
· Is there a need for a Saudi ‘Ministry of Youth’?
· How can young Saudis be equipped with appropriate skills for the 21st Century labour market?
· To what extent does the Saudi education system address the needs, concerns and aspirations of young nationals?
· What approaches and strategies can be utilized to minimize the manager (مدير) mentality linked to a sense of entitlement amongst some young Saudis?
· What approaches and strategies can be promoted to decrease preference for public sector employment and simultaneously increase desirability in private sector employment?
· What approaches and strategies can be adopted to make blue collar work more acceptable to young Saudis?
· What mechanisms can be put in place to ensure that all Saudi youth—irrespective of family, educational or regional background—can share, feed into or contribute towards youth policy?
· What role can the public and private sectors play—separately or in complement to one another—to support the mechanisms mentioned above?
· Are the current institutions tasked with mediating between policymakers and youth fit for purpose and able to deliver on policy? Is there are a need for further national or regional institutions to perform such a role?
The following are some proposed themes for the papers, but other relevant topics will also be welcomed. As previously mentioned, it is hoped that the workshop will attract a wide variety of papers from both academic and practitioners with an interest in youth policy formulation and implementation. This interest and experience does not need to be limited to Saudi Arabia alone, as knowledge and familiarity with the theoretical background of youth studies as well as comparative perspectives from the Gulf and beyond could inform analysis and discussion of Saudi Arabia’s youth policy relevance. Indeed, papers presented at the workshop will permit discussion and analysis of ideas, approaches and methods that can help facilitate an enhanced comprehension of youth policy relevance in Saudi Arabia.
This topic remains an extremely under-researched area; hence, the workshop’s scope will be necessarily broad in order to include contemporary political, economic, social and cultural issues as well as their impact on Saudi youth policy. Therefore, a variety of perspectives from academics, researchers, policy makers and practitioners alike are invited. These could include (but are not limited to) the following areas:
· Policy making at national/macro level for context;
· Domestic regional issues;
· Employment, unemployment and underemployment;
· The impact of globalization/Westernization on young nationals;
· Generational divides (not only between ‘twentysomethings’ and older generations, but also younger siblings;
· Youth and the entertainment sector;
· Youth and the arts;
· Youth and climate action;
· Nationalism including whether national identity can or should be ‘engineered’;
· Identity narratives such as family, tribe and religion
· Gender disparities;
· ‘Liberal’ versus ‘conservative’ youth;
· The rise of the individual versus ‘collective’ identity;
· Youth and the informal sector;
· Youth and social mobility;
· Youth roles in civil society;
· Youth roles in entrepreneurship: business and social;
· Volunteering: ‘giving back’;
· Youth and urbanization;
· Failed youth policies—what lessons can be learnt?
· Fault lines: substance abuse, mental health issues, problematic relationships;
· Overcoming silos;
· Potential ‘brain drains’.
Another aim of this workshop is to publish an edited book based on the individual papers presented. It is hoped that this volume will fill a gap in the relatively thin literature on Saudi youth policy issues.