Monday, 7 March 2016

Expats and dependents should not exceed 20% of total Population – Saudi Minister

Back in the year 2003, a piece had been published on an Indian media house Times of India. It stated that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had aimed to restrict the total number of expatriates as well as any dependents that they might have in the Kingdom down to 20 percent of the total population over the next 10 years. This move was going to have an impact on the expatriate in the Kingdom which measured in at 1.5 million strong. The Manpower Council which had been chaired by the Interior Minister Prince Naif had made an announcement about the decision. The council also added that the expatriate of every country would not be allowed to exceed 10 percent of the total expatriate workforce in the Kingdom.

Out of the total population of 17 million back in 2003, around six to seven million were estimated to be expatriates. The move was aimed at reducing the number of total expatriate workforces in half. Indians would be one of the expatriate nationalities to be affected most by this move because their numbers will decrease from 1.5 million to 400,000 which is less than 1/3 the original amount. The council had aimed to review the ceiling and also took measure to implement the move once every two years. The decision had been expected to make way in the job market for the local Saudi population who had been unemployed due to lack of enough jobs in the private sector.

The major chunk of the foreign expatriate workforce in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been employed in the private sector. The government of Saudi Arabia had already reserved 22 job sectors plus another 34 sectors which were only for the local population. An initiative was also made with the intention of Saudizing the jobs of taxi drivers within two years of implementation. The jobs which had been reserved primarily for the Saudi population are inclusive of the position of administrative managers, assistant administrative managers, car showroom salesmen, procurement managers and also jobs in the public relations.

Now keep in mind that the above material had been stated back in 2003 and the estimated completion time for the initiative had been set to 10 years, which means it would have been completed by 2013-2014.  I am writing this in 2016 and I can safely say that this initiative has not been successful. The total population of Saudi Arabia has increased over these years, however so has the number or strength of the expatriate workforce currently working in the Kingdom.

Perhaps it was the way in which the Saudi authorities decided to tackle the issue; perhaps it is just the increase in world population around the last decade which caused the initiative to not succeed. Ultimately it would have been better if an initiative was made to increase the number of private sector investments and also subsequently increase the number of private sector jobs in Saudi Arabia to accommodate the maximum number of professionals.

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