Saudi extends deadline for firms to hire nationals

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Saudi Arabia extended the deadline for businesses in the kingdom to hire nationals by two months to June 1, Al Riyadh newspaper reported.

The extension, granted by Prince Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz, the governor of the capital Riyadh, applies to firms operating in the gold, vegetable and used furniture markets as well as real estate and public services offices.

The kingdom is trying to curb unemployment by enforcing labour laws and implementing a drive to hire nationals instead of expatriates.

Saudi Arabia, which has the largest economy in the Arab world, hires about 1m foreign workers a year while about 1m Saudis receive unemployment benefits through its Hafiz welfare programme that gives them about SAR2,000 a month.

According to official figures from the Central Department of Statistics, the kingdom has an unemployment rate of 12.2 percent among citizens. However, the number is more than 30 percent among the youth, depending on various sources.

The largest exporter of oil in the world, which has a growing population approaching 30m hosts more than 9m foreign workers from across the Arab world and Asia which send billions of dollars in remittances back home.

The kingdom will begin deporting thousands of foreign workers who work for employers other than their specified sponsors on their work visas.

Saudi Arabia which is spending more than US$500bn on its infrastructure is earmarking a large portion of the funds for housing to meet the growing demand for its growing population. The International Monetary Fund estimates the kingdom's gross domestic product will expand 4.2 percent this year down from about 6 percent in 2012. 

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