Saudi set to allow short-term labourer contracts

Move comes to counter shortage following the kingdom's crackdown on illegal workers

Asian labourers work at a flyover construction site in eastern Riyadh. Saudi Arabia gave illegal foreign workers a three-month grace period to legalise their status. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Asian labourers work at a flyover construction site in eastern Riyadh. Saudi Arabia gave illegal foreign workers a three-month grace period to legalise their status. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Saudi Arabia has taken the unusual move to allow short-term labourer contracts from November to counter for the expected shortage following the kingdom’s crackdown on illegal workers.

Construction workers make up a significant chunk of the thousands of expatriates who have left Saudi during an amnesty period that began in April and was last week extended until November 3 as authorities struggled to process the applications to legal expats’ status or allow them to leave without penalty.

But with billions of dollars in construction underway in the country the low paid labourers are in high demand.

The projects include a $21.3bn renovation and expansion of the Grand Mosque at Madina, a $150m metro network and countless housing and hotel buildings.

The government has now approved three companies, comprising 13 recruitment firms, to issue workers contracts on an annual basis to allow developers to complete projects, industry insiders told Arab News.

It will include unskilled and skilled workers and means they will be able to change jobs without having to transfer their sponsorships.

The hiring program will begin at the end of the amnesty period.

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