Saudi Arabia Removes Controversial Restrictions On Foreign Workers

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Saudi Arabia Removes Controversial Restrictions On Foreign Workers

The adjustments can have dramatic impression on Saudi Arabia’s labour market and 10.5 million overseas employees

Saudi Arabia will take away a number of controversial restrictions on overseas employees in a labor coverage overhaul that officers hope will appeal to abroad expertise and scale back citizen unemployment.

Non-Saudis will not want their employer’s permission to vary jobs, journey overseas or go away the nation completely, in line with Sattam Alharbi, a deputy minister on the Ministry of Human Sources and Social Growth.

“Runaway” studies that employers can file towards overseas employees who cease displaying as much as their jobs — successfully rendering them fugitives — shall be abolished and changed with a process for ending their contract, Alharbi mentioned in an interview Wednesday.

The brand new guidelines will come into impact on March 14 and apply to all overseas employees within the non-public sector, no matter wage, he mentioned.

The adjustments might have a dramatic impression on Saudi Arabia’s labor market and the lives of the ten.5 million overseas employees who make up a few third of the dominion’s inhabitants.

The present “kafala” or “sponsorship” system — used for expatriates in Gulf Arab nations for many years — has been criticized by human rights teams as a type of indentured servitude. Economists say it additionally entrenches a follow of corporations hiring cheaper and extra easily-exploitable overseas employees, at the same time as Saudi unemployment rises.

“These adjustments aren’t small adjustments — it is enormous,” Alharbi mentioned, explaining the federal government had labored on the overhaul for 2 years. “We purpose to realize extra inclusion for Saudis, appeal to expertise, enhance the working circumstances, make Saudi Arabia’s labor market extra dynamic and productive.”


Overseas employees who dominate the non-public sector are tied to an employment sponsor whose permission they should transfer to a different job, go away the nation on trip and even to switch a misplaced ID.

Most Saudi staff work for the federal government, which tends to pay extra and supply better advantages than non-public corporations.

Overseas employees who dominate the non-public sector are tied to an employment sponsor whose permission they should transfer to a different job, go away the nation on trip and even to switch a misplaced ID.

Beneath the brand new guidelines, they’ll nonetheless be required to pay for an “exit and re-entry visa” to journey overseas, however will be capable to request it on their very own by the federal government’s “Absher” system, with out their employer’s consent. They may also be capable to use Absher to request a switch of sponsorship to a different employer.

By growing labor mobility, the adjustments will power corporations to boost wages and enhance working circumstances in an effort to retain and compete for employees, mentioned Farouk Soussa, an economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

“Whereas initially it will imply better prices for employers, the last word consequence shall be elevated productiveness and a better willingness on the a part of Saudis to work within the non-public sector,” Soussa mentioned.

The brand new insurance policies will in flip make Saudis extra engaging to non-public employers who would quite rent foreigners over whom they presently have better management, Alharbi mentioned.


That is significantly pressing after the financial turmoil introduced on by the pandemic pushed citizen unemployment to fifteen.4% within the second quarter, the very best on document.

“Decreasing labor market rigidities will doubtless show helpful because the economic system recovers from the twin shock of low oil costs and Covid-19,” mentioned Carla Slim, an economist at Customary Chartered Financial institution.

The impression of the brand new guidelines will depend upon how they’re applied, although, and several other neighboring nations have taken steps to reform kafala with out absolutely ending it. The adjustments introduced on Wednesday will not apply to Saudi Arabia’s 3.7 million home employees, for instance — a class of foreigners among the many most susceptible to abuse.

The separate laws that govern home employees are additionally below evaluate, Alharbi mentioned.

The general revamp might give Saudi Arabia a public relations increase because it prepares to hostthis month’s summit of the Group of 20 industrialized economies. It might additionally support Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to make the dominion extra engaging to the highly-skilled foreigners who flock to locations like Singapore and Dubai — a part of his “Imaginative and prescient 2030” financial transformation program.

Nonetheless the overwhelming majority of overseas residents fill blue collar jobs: constructing properties, cleansing streets, pumping gasoline and ready tables. Thousands and thousands come from nations together with Pakistan, India and Egypt to earn greater than they will again house, making the dominion the world’s third-largest supply of remittances.

Enhancing their circumstances is a politically delicate subject as nationalism and xenophobia rise, and a few Saudis argue that expatriates are pushing them out of the labor market.

Human rights teams mentioned the adjustments introduced on Wednesday have been vital, whereas calling for additional reforms.

Employers will nonetheless have energy over employees because of their skill to situation and renew residency permits, in line with Rothna Begum, a senior ladies’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“This isn’t full abolition of the system,” she mentioned.

(Aside from the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV employees and is revealed from a syndicated feed.)


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