Saudi mulls eight-year limit for expat workers

Points system designed to discourage workers bringing family to KSA

Professionals with valid degrees are to be exempt from the points system.
Professionals with valid degrees are to be exempt from the points system.

Expatriates in Saudi Arabia could be forced to leave after eight years and prevented from taking their families to the kingdom under further measures being considered to bolster employment of locals.

The Labour Ministry released the proposal on its new website, which translates to Together in English, to seek public opinion on labour policies, in particular its controversial Saudisation programme.

The new proposal includes a points system designed to discourage foreign workers from taking their family to the kingdom as well as make it less appealing for employers.

An expat receiving a salary of SR4,000 ($1,066) would be worth one point, while SR2,000 would equal half a point, SR6,000 would equal 1.5 points and SR8,000 and above would equal two points.

On top of the expat worker’s rating, his non-working wife would be worth half a point and each child worth a quarter of a point.

However, professionals with valid degrees would be exempt from the points system.

The points would be counted towards the total tally of the expat’s employer, who must meet strict quotas for employing Saudis. Therefore, employers would be more likely to hire a foreigner only on a low wage or a Saudi.

Points also would be allocated depending on how long the foreigner had been in the kingdom, with one point for up to three years and increasing by half a point annually until the maximum eight years.

Saudis and expats have opposed the proposal, according to Arab News. They suggest it would discourage foreign professionals from working in the kingdom and negatively impact on businesses.

The kingdom wants to reduce unemployment of Saudis, around 12 percent, by forcing out some expatriates.

More than 1m left the country under a seven-month amnesty on illegal workers last year.

About 8m are estimated to still be in the country, many of whom have lived in Saudi Arabia all of their life.

A recent report found expats spend an average of 6.9 years in the kingdom, while unskilled workers stayed an average of 7.7 years.

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