Saudi inspectors in Riyadh recorded 16 violations of government regulation limiting the employment of foreigners in retail roles on Wednesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The new rules, which came into force on Tuesday, mean automobile and motorbike showrooms and shops selling items including ready-made clothing for men and children, home and office furniture, household goods and utensils must ensure 70 per cent of their sales staff are Saudi.
There were reports of dozens of outlets closing down in the build-up, due to their reliance on foreign labour.
SPA said inspectors from the Ministry of Labour and Development and other government departments carried out 99 inspections in Riyadh.
These saw 16 violations recorded and 10 warnings issued.
Director general of the Ministry of Labour and Social Development in Riyadh, Yousef bin Musafer Al-Sayali, said the inspections of all commercial activities in the Saudi capital and its governorates would continue to ensure compliance.
The new regulation, which will eventually apply to 12 retail roles, was first announced in January. It is intended to provide more job opportunities for Saudi nationals in the private sector
Saudi Gazette reported that some large outlets selling ready-made clothing cut foreign staff in the build-up, while others sought to retain workers by moving them to support and out-of-hours roles.
An unnamed Saudi women who recently started work in the sector was enthusiastic but said the long hours, sometimes until 11:30pm, were a concern.
“It is difficult me to reach home in the night after working hours,” she was quoted as saying.
A manager of an unnamed garment store also told the publication the long working hours and lower pay meant the sector was not attractive for Saudi nationals.
However, the government is providing support through training programmes and the Taqat listings portal.
Outlets selling electrical appliances and electronics, watches and optical instruments will be subject to the staff limit from November 9 and those selling medical appliances and equipment, building and construction materials, vehicle spare parts, carpets and confectionary from January 7.
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.
Government figures for the first quarter showed 76,968 non-Saudis were employed in clerical roles, 296,066 in sales roles and 3.8 million in service roles. This compared to 539,115, 253,168 and 361,211 Saudis employed in each area respectively.