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Wed 9 Mar 2016 02:08 PM

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Makkah Chamber warns 40-hour week plan could cost $26bn

Official claims plans to shrink the working week from six days to five could affect productivity

Makkah Chamber warns 40-hour week plan could cost $26bn
(AFP/Getty Images)

Plans to cut the private sector working week in Saudi Arabia from six to five days would cost the country an estimated $26 billion in lost hours, it has been claimed.

Saleh Jamal, chairman of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), has called for a fresh examination of the likely impact of the proposals, arguing that Saudi Arabia is a developing country and needs to maximise productivity.

Under the plans, private sector employees would work 40 hours a week with two days off. It translates into an eight-hour day on average, with seven hours a day during Ramadan for fasting Muslims, or a 35-hour week.

The move is aimed at encouraging more Saudis to work in the private sector, as the kingdom presses ahead with an aggressive Saudisation policy.

The Shura Council gave its backing to the plans in January.

But Jamal has issued a warning over the plans, Arab News reported on Wednesday. He said:  “We are still a developing country and need more national production, not a weakening of either the private or public sector.

“[The proposed work week] has its pros and cons, but the negatives are much more because of the resulting costs.”

He added that it was likely some companies would restructure their workforce, for example, dismissing some and reappointing them on new terms. “Others may fire their workers and seek cheaper staff, which could cause instability,” he added.

It is not the first time that plans to shrink the work week in Saudi Arabia have met with fierce opposition.

The Ministry of Labour was forced to shelve almost identical proposals for a 40-hour working week in 2014, following pressure from the business community.

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