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24 February 2024

Saudi pushes proposal to cap expat residency

By Nadim Kawach


Saudi Arabia has thrown its weight behind a proposal to cap the maximum period that unskilled foreign workers can stay in the oil-rich Gulf in order to avoid having to offer them political representation, a senior official has said.

Failure to address the issue in Saudi Arabia and its allies in the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) could put pressure on their governments to accommodate the huge expatriate community in their political systems, said the Kingdom’s Labour Minister Ghazi Al Qusaibi.

“We need to introduce limits on the stay of expatriates in Saudi Arabia, in particular, and in the other Gulf states in general,” Qusaibi said at a session of the Saudi Shura Council.

“Neglecting this problem will put us under pressure from international agreements we have signed... we don’t want to see the day when we are forced to accept that foreign workers have representation in our parliaments and municipal councils,” he said in comments carried by the Saudi Arabic language daily Aleqtisadiha yesterday.

More than 10 million expatriates live in Saudi Arabia and the other GCC states the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. They account for almost a third of the countries’ combined populations but exceed 80 per cent in some members.

GCC labour ministers have proposed limiting the maximum stay of unskilled expatriates to six years per country, but the idea has not been implemented.