Saudi gets 2-day weekly off

Saudi Arabia is planning to allow its private sector to have a two-day weekly holiday on par with its public sector in a bid to upgrade output and lure nationals into private jobs, a newspaper in the Gulf Kingdom reported on Tuesday.

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz endorsed a request by Shura council (appointed parliament) to cut the daily weekly work hours to 40 from 48, Aleqtisadiah Arabic language daily said, quoting Ibrahim Al Suleiman, a Shura member.

“The council has received a Royal approval to reduce weekly work hours from 48 to 40…..theoretically, this means that the private sector will work five days a week as is the case with the public sector,” he said.

“An agreement has already been reached between the ministry of labour and local businessmen to cut work hours in the private sector…in Shura, we are still studying this proposal and our discussions will be completed within 10 days.”

He said Saudis prefer to work in the public sector mainly because it has shorter work hours of 35 a week, adding that the new proposal would entice them into the private sector and support government efforts to tackle unemployment.

The paper cited a ministry of labour study stressing the need for unifying work hours in the public and private sectors on the grounds this will encourage more Saudis to join the private sector following the enforcement of an aggressive plan last year to force companies operating in the largest Arab economy to employ more Saudis.

In a recent report, another Saudi Arabic language daily said the world’s dominant oil exporter is considering aligning work hours between the public and private sector following the enforcement of the job Saudization strategy dubbed Nitaqat.

“Cutting work time will be a positive step as it will allow workers to have more rest and become more innovative,” Okaz said, quoting Mutlaq al Hazmi, director of the business division at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Saudi Arabia, which controls a fifth of the world’s proven oil deposits, is suffering from high unemployment rates among its citizens because of the dominance of the expatriate labour in the private sector. The rate was officially put at around 11 per cent in 2011 but it was as high as 25 per cent among women.

Saudi Arabia’s population stood at nearly 28 million at the start of 2012, including around eight million expatriates.

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