New boost for Saudisation

12 July 2002

The government has taken another step in the Saudisation process, with the announcement of a new decision limiting jobs available to expatriates and a call from Crown Prince Abdullah to focus on higher technical specifications in the education system (Saudi Arabia, MEED Special Report, 21:6:02, page 40).

Labour & Social Affairs Minister Ali al-Namla issued instructions to recruitment offices on 9 July that new visas should not be issued to non-Saudis for work in 22 more occupations. Existing residency permits will not be renewed for those working in the areas that have been specified. While the list has not been reported in full, it is understood to include administrative and procurement managers and assistants, car salesmen, public relations officers and secretaries.

However, lawyers say the success of the proposals hinges on how they are enforced. 'It's a very tall order making this work,' says a senior Riyadh lawyer. 'It will all depend on the level of enforcement, because it may be possible for people to just change job titles to evade the measure. Ultimately, this is the stick, rather than the carrot approach. Is it realistic? No, but it is important for the government to keep up the pressure to make Saudisation work, so it's a step in the right direction.'

The government also announced that work in hajj and umrah agencies will be closed to non-Saudi workers. Last year, expatriates under the age of 40 were barred from working in gold shops, adding to a list of 13 other professions limited to Saudi nationals. The expatriate labour force is estimated to be around 4 million and accounts for a large majority of private sector jobs.

A complementary measure will be the restructuring of education to give more young Saudis technical skills that are useful in the marketplace. 'The new universities and colleges must focus on specialisations required by the jobs market, the economy and modern technology,' Crown Prince Abdullah told the Council of Ministers on 8 July. 'The government is committed to creating a more conducive atmosphere so that the private sector can play a leading role in economic development and create job opportunities.'

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