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Saudi sees 277,000 foreign workers leave jobs in Q4

Saudi sees 277,000 foreign workers leave jobs in Q4

The departures came ahead of the introduction of a new levy on companies employing foreigners

Saudi Arabia saw more than 277,000 foreign workers leave their jobs in the fourth quarter, according to the General Authority for Statistics.

In its quarterly report released this week, the authority recorded 10.417 million employed non-Saudis during the final three months of the year compared to 10.694 million in the third quarter.

During the same period, the number of employed Saudis increased by more than 100,000 from 3.063 million to 3.163 million.

The shifting dynamics of the job market meant overall unemployment increased from 5.8 per cent to 6 per cent, with unemployed non-Saudis rising from 41,363 in the third quarter to 53,210 in the fourth quarter.

For Saudis the unemployment rate remained stable at 12.8 per cent despite the number of jobs seekers reducing from 1.231 million to 1.086 million.

The authority said the number of Saudi unemployed persons aged 15 and above increased from 745,148 to 773,218.

Read: Saudi unemployment falls 5.8% in Q3

The large number of foreign workers leaving jobs followed the introduction of reforms including a SAR100 ($26.66) monthly fee for each dependent family member in July last year.

This will increase to SAR200 ($53.32) a month from July 2018, 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 a private sector firm at the end of the quarter 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 these fees at present.

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

In order to reduce unemployment among citizens 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

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

Reports this month indicated up to 1,500 foreign workers have left the kingdom on a daily basis over the last year and a half.

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

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