Saudi denies intent to deport foreign workers

Riyadh, May 31: Saudi Arabian officials said there is no blanket plan to revoke work permits for foreigners who have held jobs in the kingdom for six or more years, clarifying a statement by the labour minister.

Adel Fekyeh, the minister, was quoted Monday as decreeing that such long-term foreign workers would not be given renewed work permits — a measure aimed at boosting job opportunities for Saudis. Unemployment in the oil-rich country stands at 10.5 per cent. Fekyeh had not made clear precisely who would be affected or when.

A ministry statement issued late Monday night, however, clarified that Fekyeh was referring to private sector companies that are not complying with regulations requiring that at least five to 10 per cent of their labour force be of Saudi nationality.

The ministry said those companies would have a chance to correct work force demographics.
Saudi Arabia has been working to improve the lives of its young people — a majority of the population.

The kingdom, which sits atop the world’s largest proven reserves of crude oil, has for years relied on foreign labour in a host of sectors, ranging from domestic workers to professionals.

Fekyeh had said that 90 per cent of the private sector work force was made up of foreign workers and that remittances to their home countries totalled $26.7 billion a year.

Saudi Arabia King Abdullah has committed the government to spending more than $90 billion on improving opportunities for the country’s citizens, with the efforts focused on job creation, affordable housing and better government services.

The money is being spent as part of the country’s push to prevent the kind of mass protests that are roiling the Arab world. So far citizens have ousted the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt. The long-time leaders of Yemen, Syria and Libya are fighting to maintain power. The demonstrations have been fuelled by rampant unemployment and poverty in the Arab nations, along with big income disparities and other social and economic ills.