Saudi prepares inspectors as new restrictions on foreign retail jobs come into force

The government wants the majority of retail roles in 12 areas to be held by Saudis from early September



Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour and Social Development is preparing to begin a major crackdown on shops across the kingdom as a decision restricting 12 retail roles to citizens comes into effect.

The regulation, announced in January, applies to jobs in shops selling watches, eyewear, medical equipment and devices, electrical and electronic appliances, auto parts, building materials, carpets, cars and motorcycles, home and office furniture, children’s clothing, men’s accessories, home kitchenware, confectioneries and pastries.

Read: Saudi bars foreigners from 12 job roles

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) said in a February report that “tens of thousands” of expats could lose their jobs under the restrictions, although there was no specific data available.

Read: Saudi work ban could see tens of thousands of expats lose their jobs

Arabic newspaper Al-Madinah quoted a source at the Ministry of Labour as saying inspection teams were preparing to implement the decision, although it is understood the Saudisation rate has now been reduced from 100 per cent to 70 per cent for outlets.

A total of 200 inspectors will be deployed across the kingdom to catch any violating stores from September 11.

“Training courses were held in several regions of the kingdom for male and female inspectors on how to prepare inspection reports and detect and document labor violations,” the source was quoted as saying.

The ministry said in a separate announcement confirming the September 11 deadline on Wednesday that the new rules were designed to offer Saudi citizens “work opportunities and raise the rates of their participation in the private sector”.

A guide on the new legislation and associated support programmes has been prepared for employers and a committee comprising representatives from the labour ministry, the Human Resources Development Fund and the Social Development Bank formed to prepare for the “resettlement for localisation” programme.

An infographic detailing the new rules in Arabic

The introduction of higher fuel and electricity prices, new expat fees and a value added tax, along with job restrictions in other sectors including car rental offices and stores selling gold and jewellery, mobile accessories and female specific items, has seen hundreds of thousands leave their jobs over the last two quarters.

General Authority for Statistics labour reports showed 234,000 foreign workers left the market in the first three months of the year and more than 277,000 in the final quarter of 2017.

Read: Saudi unemployment rises in Q1, 234,000 foreign workers leave jobs