Saudi Arabia is planning to stop its citizens from sponsoring expatriate workers and restrict visa sponsorship to companies as part of an ongoing strategy to expand the private sector and tackle local unemployment.
The new system is expected to be presented to the cabinet for approval within the next few months, the Arabic language daily Alwatan said.
Another newspaper said the Gulf kingdom, the largest Arab economy and the world’s oil basin, is considering changing its weekly holiday to Friday and Saturday instead of Thursday and Friday for both the public and private sectors.
“A committee created by the Ministry of Labour has completed a study on the replacement of the individual sponsorship system by a corporate system…the plan also involves the creation of a new body to be called ‘the Expatriate Labour Authority’ to be affiliated to the Ministry of Labour,” Alwatan said.
Under the new system, foreign workers will be allowed to keep their passports while direct sponsors will no longer be required to agree on the workers’ request to bring their families to the Kingdom or go for pilgrimage.
“The study also made several proposals that will guarantee the rights of both the employer and the employee,” the paper said.
In a separate report, Okaz newspaper said another government committee has completed a study to change the two-day weekly holiday.
It said the committee is proposing Friday and Saturday instead of Thursday and Friday and stressed that “Friday must not be touched in any new holiday recommendation on the grounds it is an Islamic symbol.”
“The study coincides with moves by the Ministry of Labour to allow the private sector to have a two-day weekly holiday on part with the public sector.”
Saudi Arabia has been locked in plans to expand the private sector and give it a stronger role in the domestic economy following official reports that it will be the main source of jobs in the next years.
Foreigners account for more than 90 per cent of the workers in the private sector but officials hope this will drastically change after last year’s enforcement of a radical job nationalization plan dubbed Nitaqat (ranges).
Around eight million expatriates live in Saudi Arabia, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the total population of 27.1 million.