Saudi Arabia to limit foreigner work permits to generate more employment for its nationals

Saudi Arabia aims to create more jobs for its nationals by not renewing the work permits of foreign workers who have spent six years in the country, the Saudi labor minister said. The current situation calls for strong cooperation between the government and private sector in solving the problem of unemployment with hundreds of thousands looking for work.

It remains unclear as to when the decision will be implemented or whether it will be applicable to all foreigners or to specific jobs. There are currently eight million foreign workers in the Kingdom, of which six million are employed in the private sector.

Companies across Saudi have targeted workers from Asia, who are allegedly willing to work long hours for low salaries, or have swerved towards well-paid foreign experts. Unemployment in the Kingdom currently stands at 10.5 percent, the minister said. An estimated 28 percent of the unemployed were women and 40 percent high school graduates, he added.

Saudi Arabia has an estimated population of 25 million, with almost 70 percent of Saudis under the age of 30. The Gulf Arab state, the largest economy of the GCC and largest oil exporter in the world, has an annual GDP of $622 billion, and a GDP per capita of $24,200.

Unemployment amongst Saudi nationals has risen despite the country’s wealth. Analysts say that a dated school system focused on religion and the Arabic language is a factor that has produced graduates who have difficulty finding jobs in the private sector. Also, a rapidly growing population – increasing by around 2.4 percent annually – adds to the difficulty for finding jobs.