Alarmed by a predominantly expatriate workforce in Saudi Arabia sending large money transfers outside of the country, the Saudi Labor Ministry has said it will introduce a “salary protection” program to boost its domestic economy.
The new program will dictate the amount an expat working in Saudi Arabia can send back home, the Saudi labor minister, Adel Fakih, said. Expats must keep the bulk of their salaries within the country under the new program.
“About nine out of 10 workers in the country are foreigners,” Fakih said. “This has led to millions of riyals being transferred back to their home countries, harming the local economy,” Fakih added.
The Labor Ministry has also put a 20 percent ceiling on the country’s guest workers in its latest bid to help make jobs for Saudi nationals.
“The maximum number of long-term expatriate workers in the kingdom should not exceed 20 percent of the Saudi population,” a spokesman from the ministry was quoted as saying in the Saudi daily Arab News.
Within the next three years, Fakih expects unemployment among Saudi nationals to decline by 50 percent because of ministry initiatives. The country’s unemployment rate for Saudi citizens was 10.8 percent in July.
The ministry said it intends to launch 30 new initiatives as part of its drive to create jobs for Saudi university graduates.
Fakih told Arab News that the initiatives would include efforts to develop the skills of Saudi workers, informing the private sector about qualified Saudi jobseekers and opening new opportunities for women.
Fakih also said the ministry would eliminate the so-called “Saudization” plan that had been put in to encourage more nationals to work.
Instead, Fakih said that the “Hafiz” program, which provides financial assistance to Saudis who are not employed until they are provided with a job, will better support nationals in need of job opportunities.
The ministry had previously said it would begin to pay unemployment benefits for the first time beginning in November.