Saudi Arabia is reportedly expected to see a 40 per cent decline in recruitment of foreign drivers by year-end as reforms take their toll.
Local reports suggest government initiatives including a decision to allow women to drive and a ban on the recruitment of foreign drivers by ride services like Uber will hit demand in 2018.
Arabic publication Al-Madina cited recruitment companies as confirming the forecast after requests for foreign drivers fell 10 per cent at the start of the year.
“The fall in recruitment will naturally reduce the expenditures of Saudi families,” recruitment company owner Abdullah Al-Ansari told the publication.
“Saudi families will be able to save the money they used to spend on drivers following the introduction of women driving on June 24.”
The Saudi Economic Association said last year the kingdom could save SAR20bn ($5.33bn) by allowing women to drive, assuming half of expat drivers were no longer needed.
The savings are expected to largely come from families no longer needing to employ foreign drivers as women would be able to transport themselves and their children.
Economic adviser Fuad Bogari told Al-Madina the average family could save SAR25,000 ($6,667) annually in combined recruitment, visa and salary costs by no longer recruiting a driver.
Bogari said General Authority of Statistics figures showed 1.38 million foreign drivers were employed in the kingdom in the first quarter of 2017 with an average salary of SAR1,500 ($400).
“This means Saudi families paid SAR2.07bn ($554m) in salary of their drivers every month,” he was quoted as saying.
Another recruitment office owner, Hussain Al-Motairy, was quoted as confirming demand for drivers was down 10 per cent so far this year and could reach 40 per cent by year-end.
He indicated the recruitment cost of foreign drivers had already fallen by a third from SAR4,500 ($1,200) to SAR3,000 ($800).
Officials said last year the lifting of the kingdom’s female driving ban would not mean job opportunities for foreign women drivers with the same restrictions in place for expat women as men.