Saudi moves ahead with plans to bar foreign workers from some sectors

Heads of Saudi chambers of commerce and industry are concerned that companies are struggling to cope with Saudisation measures

Saudi Arabia has no intention of slowing down its plans to bar foreign workers from some roles, the kingdom’s labour minister has said.

Ali Al-Ghafis made the remarks during a meeting with the heads of Saudi chambers of commerce and industry this week, according to Arabic newspaper Makkah.

During the session the Council of Saudi Chambers warned that some companies were struggling with reforms designed to encourage Saudisation including a new SAR300-400 ($80-107) monthly fee per foreign worker and a requirement to employ only Saudi citizens in some sectors.

Read: Saudi council calls for SMEs to be exempt from new expat levy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) said in a report last week that a decision to bar foreigners from 12 retail roles could see tens of thousands of expats lose their jobs.

Other businesses where a complete ban on foreign employment is being applied include gold a jewellery shops, car rental offices, shops selling female-specific items and mobile accessory stores.

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

Read: Saudi to ban foreigners from work in car rental offices

During this week’s meeting, the council called for the ministry to reduce the Saudisation requirement in some of the affected sectors to below 100 per cent, especially for jobs where equivalent Saudi talent is difficult to find.

The chambers also asked the ministry to form a committee to study any decisions before they are announced, according to Makkah.

“The heads of chambers said they were not against Saudisation but have some reservations about the mechanism adopted by the ministry,” Al-Ahsa Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Abdullatif Al-Arfaj was quoted as saying.

“These mechanisms will have a negative impact on the private sector and cause many businesses to close down.”

However, despite calls from business owners “not to Saudise certain jobs for the time being” due to a lack of qualified Saudis in sectors like construction he said the ministry “insisted that it will implement the decisions as planned”.

Al-Arfaj said the chambers remained concerned that the ministry’s procedures could have a negative impact on the national economy.