Does Saudi Arabia need expat friendly policies

Published:  14 Nov at 6 PM
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The crackdown on undocumented expats in Saudi is spooking the regularised expat community into panic at the thought of another Saudization drive, but does the country need more expat-friendly policies?

To many analysts and long-term expat residents, the Saudization scheme seems to be totally unrealistic given the vast size of the kingdom and its massive natural resources, tapped and untapped. Oddly, there seems to be a push to emulate the UAE countries, Oman and Bahrain with their fewer resources and much smaller size.

There’s a better comparison out there in the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK, all of which have benefitted greatly by immigration as regards foreign talent which remained in those countries and became naturalised. Saudi, according to its critics, would be better off by taking a similar stance towards skilled expats.

To take advantage of expat talent in a positive manner, the kingdom’s labour laws would need severe adjustment as, at present, the expat executive community is living in fear due to the complexity of the present regulations. Sponsorship causes most problems, as it’s wide open to exploitation and corruption.

The setting up of a dedicated department to deal with expatriate issues in a positive manner is recommended, and the authorities should issue clear, concise instructions of the dos and don’t’s required for compliance by both employees and employers. Both moves would help expats to work without stress or fear, with a corresponding increase in productivity.

The constant rolling out of more Saudization restrictions targeting the expat workforce in the kingdom will do nothing but harm. Once all the undocumented workers have either regularized their status or left, a strong push towards an expat-friendly policy should be recognised as the best way forward for all, as foreign manpower at a certain level is both required and necessary.
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