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Average of 1,500 foreign workers leaving Saudi a day as reforms bite

Average of 1,500 foreign workers leaving Saudi a day as reforms bite

Foreign workers in the kingdom are tackling new fees, cost of living increases and bans from working in some sectors

An average of 1,500 foreign workers have left Saudi Arabia on a daily basis over the last 18 months, according to reports.

Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat cited the Directorate General of Passports as confirming the figure.

Around 811,000 foreign workers have departed the kingdom on a final exit visa over the last year and a half, the directorate said, according to the publication.

This included 270,000 that have left in the opening months of 2018, compared to 541,000 that departed in the same period in 2017.

Up to 1.2 million exit-reentry visas have been issued since the start of the year, compared to three million the previous year.

The large number of foreign workers leaving the country followed the introduction of reforms including a SAR100 ($26.66) monthly fee for each of their dependents in July last year. This will increase to SAR200 ($53.32) a month from July this year, SAR300 ($79.98) in 2019 and SAR400 ($106.64) in 2020.

Read: Saudi’s new expat charges – is your company footing the bill?

The kingdom also introduced a new SAR300 or SAR400 ($80-107) monthly fee for each foreign worker employed by private sector firms on January 1, with those that employ an equal or greater number of Saudis than expats paying the lesser amount.

The country’s finance minister has said there are no plans to revise the new fees at present.

Read: Saudi finance minister says no plans to revise expat fee, other reforms

At the same time as these reforms, the kingdom has been conducting a Saudisation drive that has seen foreign workers banned from jobs at car rental offices, gold and jewellery stores, shopping malls and other retail roles.

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

It is also cracking down on violators of residency, labour and border security laws under a crackdown that began last November. So far 928,857 foreign violators have been arrested, the Ministry of Interior said in a recent update.

Read: Saudi says more than 500,000 visa violators arrested in crackdown

The campaign comes on top of a broader reform agenda that has seen the cost of living in the kingdom increase this year following the introduction of a 5 per cent value added tax and increases to fuel and electricity prices in January.

Read: Saudi January inflation spikes on VAT, gasoline price hike

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