Saudi economists say foreign recruitment harming Nitaqat efforts

Annual recruitment of 1.2 million foreign workers is hampering nationalisation efforts

Saudi Arabian economists have said that the annual recruitment of foreign workers is hampering Nitaqat efforts.

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A leading Saudi economist has said that the annual recruitment of 1.2 million foreign workers is hampering the Kingdom’s nationalisation efforts.

In a report by Arab News, Abdullah Al-Maghlouth urged the Saudi Arabian government to review its recruitment policy, pointing out that Saudis only account for 15% of jobs in the private sector, with expats taking up 7.5 million jobs while citizens hold 1.4 million in comparison.

“We recruit about 1.2 million foreign workers annually at a time when we have more than a million Saudi job seekers,” Al-Maghlouth said. “It is a big challenge for the government to find jobs for more than a million unemployed Saudis.”

According to the Labour Ministry, 750,000 jobs have been created for Saudis over the last three years thanks to the Nitaqat nationalisation program.

“A foreigner may be ready to work for 12 hours daily for a low salary, and Saudis would not be able to compete with them. This is the main reason for private companies hiring expats,” he said.

Although the Kingdom has spent billions of riyals every year to develop a solution to its manpower shortage, through education and training, Al-Maglouth said that results were yet to be seen.

Essam Khalifa, another economist, called for a ‘qualitative improvement of the Saudi labour market’ so as to increase the demand for local workers as compared to expats.

“Saudis should be ready to take on any job and they should be given proper training to compete with foreigners,” he explained.

Another reason the private sector preferred to hire foreign workers was because they were cheaper than inexperienced Saudi workers, who demanded higher salaries, said Professor Habibullah Turkistani of King Abdulaziz University.

“Saudi workers should be given a minimum salary of SR3,500 because of rising living standards and the increasing prices of goods and services,” he said.

He expressed dismay over the private sector’s neglect of national manpower despite various government incentives. “The Human Resource Development Fund has offered to pay 50 percent of Saudis’ salaries for three to four years,” he pointed out.


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