Complex Made Simple

Expats in Saudi are at great risk of losing their jobs

Two regional allies appear to be heading in opposite directions when it comes to jobs.

Saudi is attempting to lower unemployment levels from 12.8 % by filling up junior and senior positions in the public and private sectors. It will do so by firing expats and hiring locals.

The UAE is aiming to fill a skills gap no matter where it is coming from despite a call and new rules for Emiratization.

Calls on Saudization to become mainstream

According to the Saudi Gazette, the rate of Saudization in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is expected to increase as a result of the high cost of employing expatriate workers.

Related: Arab youth unemployment: Is there a way out?

Table courtesy of Clyde&Co. (expat fees in Saudi)

Mohammed Al-Johani, deputy chairman of the food committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), said the new strategy of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) seeks to achieve a balance between the number of job seekers and the current economic situation of private firms.

“SMEs that represent 90% of firms in the private sector will be forced to employ more Saudis as a result of a substantial increase in the cost of employing foreign workers,” Al-Johani told Al-Madina Arabic daily.

Crisis in Saudi: Unemployment worsening, expats leaving & Vision 2030 stifled

Table courtesy of Clyde&Co.

Saudis at junior levels receive a monthly salary ranging between SR3,000 ($810) and SR5,000 ($1,350).

Decision-makers represent 15% to 20% of workers in a company. They receive a salary of SR10,000  ($2,700) to SR15,000 ($4,050) monthly.

There are about 100,000 Saudis who have graduated from foreign universities under the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program, according to the Gazette.
“These highly qualified Saudi graduates can replace those highly paid expats,” Al-Johani said.

Dr. Khaled Al-Maimani, head of human resource department at Faculty of Economics in King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, said the main reason why many Saudis leave private companies is the lack of confidence between Saudi employees and management.

“This happens mainly because of the absence of Saudis in top or middle management in major companies,” he told Al-Madina newspaper.

Infographic: How women’s driving will transform Saudi job market

Nidal Ridwan, president of the Federation of Labor Unions, said the government wants to Saudize jobs in all sectors without any exemption.

Ridwan said thre are challenges posed by the illegal tasattur (cover-up) businesses where Saudis are paid wages even when they either don’t attend or don’t perform the assigned tasks.

Shoura Council member, Saeed Bin Qasim Al-Khaldi Al-Maliki, has said there was a dire need to open more job opportunities for the Saudis and to nationalize government.

“We should not depend on the non-Saudis forever while we have qualified Saudis who are capable of doing perfectly the jobs not only in these two sectors but in all other fields,” he said.

Quoting the statistical reports of the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat), Al-Maliki said there were 60,000 jobs in the sector of education and health which are currently filled by expatriates and are open for nationalization.

“Are there no sufficient qualified Saudis to take over these jobs which are being filled by non-Saudis,” he asked.

Quoting a report by the Ministry of Civil Service, Al-Maliki said there were 41,000 non-Saudis being employed by the government and said the Kingdom should not depend always on the foreign hands.

Read: The truth about AI’s impact on jobs in the UAE

UAE: jobs jobs jobs

Around 78% of UAE employers are planning to hire in the next three months, according to new research from and YouGov, as reported by Arabian Business (AB).

More than six in 10 UAE employers plan to fill up to 10 different jobs with new hires, while the remaining companies will hire for 11 to 20 jobs (6%), 21 to 50 jobs (8%) or over 51 jobs (12%).

“Across the region, 73% of employers said they plan to make hires in the next three months, a number which rises to 76% among multinational companies and SMEs,” AB reported.

“In the UAE, the majority of companies said they will be hiring junior and mid-career positions, with the most requirement being for junior executives (44%), followed by managers (35%),  senior executives (33%) and coordinators (33%). Of the total, 35% of companies said they are looking to hire C-Suite or managing director position.

Read: In Dubai, almost everyone has a job but not everyone is happily employed

But what about Emiratization?

The Ministry of Emiratisation and Human Resources recently announced plans to activate Article 14 of the labor law, which states that a non-UAE national should be given approval for employment only when an unemployed national suitable for the position cannot be found.

Minister Nasser Al Hamli said 400 selected professions in 2,000 private establishments will now have to give priority to Emiratis when recruiting.

According to Berry Appleman & Leiden (BAL), a leading corporate immigration law firm, the UAE is planning an “Emiratization” program in 3 key industries: Communications, construction and real estate, and transport.

“The three sectors constitute nearly 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and the Ministry of Human Resources plans to promote the hiring of Emiratis in 300,000 jobs,” said BAL.