Saudi Arabia might restrict foreign workers’ stay in the country to a maximum of eight years under a proposed law to create jobs for its citizens, a move expected to affect a large number of Indians.
The proposed law has been floated by the Labour Ministry which is studying new proposals to expand the Nitaqat law in its bid to reduce the number of foreign workers and dependents besides creating more jobs for citizens with higher salaries.
An expat worker living in Saudi with his wife and two children will be considered as two foreign workers under the proposed system. A couple will accumulate 1.5 points and will incur a quarter of a point per child, the Arab News reported today.
According to the new law, three points are the maximum a foreign worker can earn. The law will not apply to nationals who cannot be deported from the country, like Palestinians.
An expat receiving a salary of 6,000 riyals (USD 1,600) and more will be equivalent to 1.5 points in the new system, but professionals whose degrees have been attested by Saudi authorities will be exempted from the salary rule.
An expat who completed four years in the lunar calendar will count for 1.5 points in the Nitaqat system and that this will be calculated from the fifth year after receiving the work permit issued by the ministry.
Those who have completed five years will earn two points, while those working for six years will earn two-and-a-half points and those who have completed seven years will earn three points at the start of eighth year after receiving their work permits.
The new law was proposed in the wake of a study that showed unskilled workers stayed for more years than skilled workers in Saudi, the report said.
Many Saudis and expats have opposed the proposal, saying it would discourage foreign professionals from working in the Kingdom and leave a negative impact on businesses.
“The move to discourage foreigners to bring their families is not a good idea,” said Ibrahim Badawood, managing director of ALJ Community Initiatives.
Rafeek Younus, vice president and managing director of Saihati Group, said the ministry should avoid decisions that would send a wrong message to businesses and investors.
“The new labour regulations have already affected the profitability of businesses,” he said.
The new labour policy Nitaqat was part of Saudi Arabia’s steps to expand job avenues for its nationals. Under the policy, 10 per cent of jobs even in small and medium business establishments should be reserved for Saudi nationals.
The 2.8 million plus strong Indians in Saudi Arabia is the largest expatriate community in the country.