Private companies found to have an insufficient Saudi-to-expat ratio have sacked more than 70,000 foreign workers over the last two years in a bid to hire more nationals, experts say.
They say small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent the bulk of companies falling into the red category, as they have few workers and cannot generate enough jobs for both Saudis and expats, Arab News reported.
They said contractors for government bodies, meanwhile, had stopped hiring foreigners altogether.
“These many expats have been fired in order to attract fresh Saudi graduates to work on a minimum wage of SR6,000 ($1,734) just like expats,” said Farooq Al Khateeb, an economy professor at King Abdulaziz University.
“SMEs are interested in hiring fresh Saudi graduates who would agree to work for lower salaries than professional Saudis, who earn far more.”
However, he said: “Several hundred expats had also been fired by companies with a sufficient number of Saudis.”
“The Labor Ministry must close the doors of foreign recruitment so that professionals already living in the Kingdom can find jobs.
Abdul Moneam Al Sherry, director of the Labor Department in the Makkah region, said the Labor Ministry would take measures in the next few days with the aim of motivating companies that had been in the red zone for three months or more to increase the percentage of Saudis on their payrolls.
“Companies in the green zone accounted for nearly 40 percent of all establishments in mid-2011 and this figure increased to 81 percent by the end of 2013,” he said.
“Only around six percent of business owners failed to improve their Saudi-to-expat ratio.”
The Labor Ministry, however, said that 20 percent of Saudi firms were still in the red zone two years after the implementation of the Nitaqat program despite the ministry’s intensive campaign to nationalise jobs in the private sector.
The Nitaqat program replaced the original Saudisation program that was initiated in 1994 as a means of reducing reliance on foreign labor, but the initiative failed to realise the goal of attaining the 30 percent Saudisation target, Arab News reported.
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