By Diana Al-Jassem
Jeddah, (Arab News): Reducing the number of working hours confuses markets’ needs in Ramadan, according to business experts. Despite the fact that consumption and purchasing power increase in Ramadan, many workers seek fewer working hours.
People staying awake until dawn results in lower productivity throughout the day. Such a lifestyle is negatively affecting the Saudi market.
So businesses and economists are calling for longer working hours and bonuses for workers in order to meet demand. Many reports have indicated that productivity declines by as much as 35 to 50 percent as a result of shorter working hours and the change in lifestyle during the month.
Nada Hawamedeh, a Jordanian HR employee at a private Saudi company, confirmed that in Ramadan employees become less efficient and that they even tend to become short tempered, adding that in theory, employees should work harder in Ramadan and try to be more productive since demand for goods and services increases.
“The positive side of Ramadan for business people is a higher demand for goods and services and higher consumption. This should, in fact, encourage businesses and employees to work harder and increase productivity,” she said. Hawamedeh
added: “In most companies, whether in Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries, decisions and vital meetings are postponed until Ramadan is over.”
According to Hawamedeh, this causes lower productivity and performance and results in losses for businesses. Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia offers a special work environment in Ramadan by reducing working hours automatically, many employees do not benefit from this.
“Hypermarkets, restaurants, retail and hotel chains experience higher demand during Ramadan,” said Nawaf Al-Harthi, a Saudi restaurant owner in Jeddah. “For our sector, Ramadan is the toughest season. We are therefore obliged to give our employees incentive in Ramadan. We give our employees a 30 percent increase in salary to encourage them to work.”
According to Al-Harthi, in most Arab countries, restaurants remain open throughout the day to serve non-Muslims. Zaki Fathi, a salesman at a hypermarket in Jeddah, confirmed that people tend to consume more and even purchase more than they actually need in Ramadan. “The positive side of Ramadan for business people is a higher demand for goods and services and higher consumption. This should be a motivation toward increasing working hours rather than halting productivity,” he said.
Walid Salem, an economist, told Arab News that Ramadan is a month when workers’ productivity decreases while consumption and demand rises. “The higher rate of consumption equates to higher economic growth, which is why workers have to work more and get paid more,” he said.
According to Salem, Ramadan attracts huge increases in profits compared to the rest of the year, especially in Saudi Arabia. “There is no doubt that traders and businesses witness a decline in purchasing power after Ramadan as a result of higher prices against fixed incomes,” he said.