Expats in Saudi confused by so-called fake news

Published:  4 Dec at 6 PM
Want to get involved? Become a Featured Expat and take our interview.
Become a Local Expert and contribute articles.
Get in touch today!
Business owners, real estate owners and expats in general are getting mixed messages about changes to the Saudi labour system.

Several days ago, the kingdom’s newly appointed minister for labour and social development promised good news intended to ease the concerns of home owners, businessmen and expatriates living and working in Saudi Arabia. Subsequent leaks gave details of the upcoming announcements, including a cap on worker fees at SR400 monthly and the cancellation of the dependent fees due to increase annually for the next two years. Male children over 20 years old would need to either continue under their parents’ sponsorship or change to worker status, with female children forced to keep their present status.

The three groups worst affected by the initial rulings all breathed a loud sigh of relief, but the celebrations ended several days later when the Saudi Labour Ministry issued a communication denying all the changes and urging expats and citizens to only believe official communications. Local media outlets were forced to apologise, although several decided to use the mess to explain why their jobs are more difficult than they should be as well as attempting to give an easy-to understand update as to what’s really happening.

Regulations, they say, are often issued without interpretation or justification, with one example the sudden introduction of dependent fees and fines for Saudi businesses as a means of enforcing Saudization. Predictable consequences included expatriate resignations, the repatriation of family members and struggling business owners’ attempts to restructure their companies by reducing their workforce. Shops and apartments emptied, and rents fell sharply. In defence of the new rulings, lawmakers stated the expat exodus would reduce pressure on public services and infrastructure and eliminate illegal non-Saudi business ownership, but didn’t mention losing the cashflow from all those dependents’ fees.

The critics have it right in that an expat exodus will not produce financial gain for the Saudi economy, and every resident, including remaining expats and all Saudi citizens with the exception of the very low paid, will bear the full cost of the changes. In addition, the issue is likely to reduce still further Saudi Arabia’s sinking popularity as a prime destination for top expat talent. With millions of expats heading for the door, the real estate market, the recreational and educational sectors and the commercial sector will continue to suffer.

The worst aspect of the new laws is that they’re now forcing long-term expats who’ve contributed hugely to the kingdom’s success to return to their original countries, a number of which are no longer safe or are actually war zones. Guest workers who’ve contributed for many years deserve far better treatment than they’re getting in the kingdom nowadays.
Like this news?

Comments » No published comments just yet for this article...

Feel free to have your say on this item. Go on... be the first!

Tell us Your Thoughts On This Piece:

Your Name *
Email * (not published, needs verification one time only)
  • Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • RSS feed
  • Facebook

Latest Headlines

News Links

News Archive