Saudi Arabia to blacklist uncommitted job-seekers

Saudi Arabia will blacklist job candidates who miss interviews or training, as part of efforts to get more Saudi nationals working for private companies, the al-Eqtisadiah newspaper reported on Tuesday. 

The move is designed to assuage concerns by companies that the labour market reform plans might force them to employ unmotivated workers. 

"The Labour Ministry will issue 'blacklists' of Saudi job-seekers who had necessary and appropriate work opportunities and did not take them," the newspaper quoted Deputy Labour Minister Ahmed al-Humaidan as saying. 

Foreign workers fill nine out of 10 private-sector jobs in the world's top oil exporter. Economists say participation of Saudi nationals in the work force is less than 40 percent, or about half the global average. 

Some companies complain that Saudis demand higher pay, have less experience and motivation, and are harder to sack than foreign workers. 

In sweeping changes introduced over the past year, Saudi Arabia has refined its quota requirement for foreign versus Saudi workers, introduced unemployment benefits and created a database of job seekers. 

Beneficiaries of the unemployment allowance, which is only available for a year, are automatically added to the database along with potential job candidates who take advantage of career fairs that have run this year in the kingdom's main cities. 

On Monday Eqtisadiah also reported changes to the sponsorship system for expatriate workers, another of the changes being pushed by the Labour Ministry. 

"The Labour Ministry has started taking practical steps towards scrapping the sponsorship system," it reported on Monday, citing deputy labour minister Ahmed al-Humaidan. 

Under Saudi law, foreign workers have a Saudi sponsor who is legally responsible for them and can hold their passports. 

The proposed changes to the widely criticised sponsorship system include allowing employees to retain their travel documents and abolishing a requirement to have the sponsor's permission to apply for family visit visas, Humaidan said. 

A commission was set up in March to investigate ways of switching from the sponsorship system to recruitment companies that handle expatriate visas.

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