Employers in Saudi Arabia could be hit with higher fees to obtain work visas for expats, it has been reported.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Development is considering raising the ‘Iqama’ fee, which currently stands at SR2,400 ($639) for companies with more than 10 employees.
However, the exact fee increase has yet to be determined, Arab News reported on Tuesday.
It said the plans could benefit Saudi citizens who compete with foreign expats for jobs.
An official was quoted as saying: “We keep options open in our endeavour to address labour market problems. Our problems are different from those elsewhere in the world. We have both unemployment and [high volumes of expat] recruitment, and thus everything is open to negotiation.”
In 2014 the Iqama fee was scrapped for small businesses with fewer than 10 staff. The government has since ramped up efforts to increase jobs for Saudi nationals, and decrease economic dependence on an expat workforce.
During a meeting on Monday, deputy labour minister Ahmed Al Humaidan reportedly also rejected plans to grant the two-day weekend to Saudi employees only, saying such discrimination would be an “embarrassment to the ministry at international forums”.
Saudi Arabia’s plans to permit employees to take both weekend days as holiday is still in consultation phase.
Al Humaidan also told the government meeting that shops could be forced to close at 9pm at night, as part of plans to reduce weekly working hours from 48 to 40.
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