Saudi Arabia’s advisory body Shoura Council will reconsider a proposal to reduce the weekly working hours and provide a two-day weekend for the country’s private sector, according to local dailies.
The council called for a revote on the proposal on Monday following an appeal by some of its members.
The advisory body’s recommendations are made laws once the ministers approve them. But some members invoked Article 21 of the Shoura law, which allows review of a decision prior to its submission to the King.
The Shoura Council endorsed a proposal last year to reduce working hours for private sector employees from 45 to 40 with a two-day weekend in a bid to attract more locals to the sector.
However, the private sector has said that a reduction in working hours will raise operational costs for businesses.
“It’s a matter of efficiency and productivity,” said Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, chairman of the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Before reducing weekly work-hours, we should study the effects of such a decision in terms of operational costs.”
He also added that reducing working hours will not attract Saudis to the private sector.
Saudi Arabia, the most active GCC country in terms of labour reforms, has been struggling to increase the number of locals in the private sector.
The Kingdom’s official unemployment rate is said to be around 11.8 per cent, but economists estimate that only 30 to 40 per cent of working-age Saudis hold jobs or actively seek work.
After repeated warnings from the IMF, the country has adopted various measures to nationalise its private sector but has so far remained unsuccessful.
A recent report from Saudi-based Alkhabeer Capital showed that private sector employers still preferred to hire expatriates due to their higher commitment to work at lower remuneration levels compared to nationals.
Experts have called for greater investments in the Kingdom’s education sector, better policies to create ‘quality’ jobs and further funding for SMEs to create youth employment.