What is required from the new labor minister?

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There are growing calls urging new labor and social development minister to review some of the decisions taken by his predecessors which took a devastating toll on businesses in general and small and medium enterprises in particular.

These pleas have been surfacing both in the print media as well as social media platforms and even in the general conversations at social gatherings.

Many people claim that some of the new labor policies have increased the cost of recruitment, especially the fee for hiring maids, which rose significantly as compared to the cost in the neighboring countries. Similarly, the process of recruitment takes up to several months and this shows that the Ministry has not paid any attention to this matter during its negotiations with the official agencies of the countries exporting domestic workers. Hence there is no specific period of time by which the domestic workers should land in the Kingdom.

In a statement published recently by Okaz newspaper, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, member of the Shoura Council, urged the new minister of labor to take swift action to address the recruitment issue, which has badly affected many Saudi families. He called on the minister to reconsider many of the decisions that impacted small and medium enterprises adversely. “The objective is not to employ Saudis in low skilled jobs in place of expatriate workers. On the other hand, they should be employed in high-skilled jobs in addition to empowering and supporting small and medium enterprises,” he said.

On the possibility of taking up once again the file, regarding the misuse of Article 77 of the Labor Law for arbitrary sacking of Saudi employees, to the new minister, Al-Rashed explained that many Saudis have lost their jobs as some private companies resorted to cut down the number of their staff in the current scenario. He drew attention to the latest statistical figures released by the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) confirming that there is an increase in the employment rates of Saudis. According to the figures, as many as 850,000 foreigners had left the Kingdom during the first quarter of 2018 while 113,000 Saudis have been employed during the same period.

The Shoura member said that they have received complaints from the private sector and these complaints include those from the companies which are engaged in hiring domestic workers as they has been a fall in their businesses and hence, there should be some effective measures taken to address their issue.

He pointed out that there was a strategy to regulate and develop these companies, but the former minister changed it affected investors in this sector negatively. He said that the Kingdom is passing through a phase of national transformation. There are economic challenges to this transformation and that represents the pace of growth and affects some sectors including the retail and construction sectors. He stressed that the Vision 2030 aims to raise the contribution of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the gross domestic product (GDP) by a large proportion. This will be through easing the working environment and speeding up of the process of issuing licenses, noting that the government is prudent in spending through certain sectors to help the growth of the economy and create more job opportunities.

However, the Shoura member did not mention another key decision by Ministry of Labor during the tenure of the previous minister. The imposition of dependent fee on expatriates regardless of their income and social status has also taken a toll on the national economy. The dependent fee also increases incrementally in a phased manner.

The dependent fee prompted large numbers of expatriates, whom the country still needs, leave the Kingdom for their country or send their dependents back home after they decided to stay alone. Subsequently, three or four people live together in one apartment. Earlier, each expatriate worker had to spend around 70-80 percent of his income to meet the expenses of his family and himself and could transfer only the remaining amount to his country. Now he can transfer between 70 and 80 percent of his earnings to his country. As he is living alone, he can transfer most of his earnings to his family back home.

Consequently, thousands of apartments remain vacant and the construction works have almost come to a halt. This resulted in falling shares and profits of cement companies. Apart from this, there are also social and humanitarian ramifications that have not been calculated. It is yet to be seen whether the new minister would take into account of all these things.

Finally, I apologize to all of my readers who asked for help in solving their problems with their sponsors. I do not have the capacity or the authority to make any intervention between any sponsor and his worker. My task is to write and highlight some problems.

The problems that arise between a sponsor and his worker are to be solved through the labor office. Whoever feels that his sponsor did any injustice to him can approach the labor office with a complaint and will find a solution from there.


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