Saudi construction companies to replace professional expat staff with locals

Published:  14 Oct at 6 PM
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Tagged: Australia, Jobs
Expat engineers on contract to Saudi construction companies with important projects now fear the loss of their jobs due to the controversial Nitiqat programme.

Saudi companies are only required to fill seven percent of their vacancies with local workers in order not to disrupt the progress of major construction projects. However, many major firms are now planning to replace qualified and experienced expat professionals with Saudi labour in order to comply with the Kingdom’s Saudization scheme.

According to one construction site owner, admin positions within the company can be successfully filled by local applicants, but expat technical staff are crucial to the success of a project due to their experience in the sector. Saudi CEOs are aware of the need to replace foreign workers with local labour, but believe foreign professionals are essential to ensure the stability and progress of major construction sites without causing unnecessary delays.

Even so, layoffs seem inevitable as Saudization tightens up across the kingdom. One company is planning to lose two expat engineers and five technical staff in the near future, even although it already employs large numbers of Saudis in its admin offices and finance department.

Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry member Abdullah Bakr Radwan confirmed to local media that the Nitiqat target of seven per cent foreign workers applies to the construction industry. He added that he is planning to introduce a reform initiative in the sector which will give more openings for locals.

The scheme, he said, will enable young Saudis to start small enterprises carrying out maintenance and restoration duties, and he plans to get funding as well as giving support to the new businesses. Many jobs are expected to be created, and the experience gained by local workers should help them make the transfer to technical jobs in the construction industry.
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