Jun 06 2011
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Boosting Saudization, Nitaqat program offers expats greater mobility
The announcement of the program in the last few days had raised doubts in the minds of the expatriate community and created a controversy among the employees and job seekers about their prospects across the Kingdom.
Under the new policy, foreign workers employed by companies that are not in compliance with the country's Saudization quotas (categorized as "red" and "yellow" companies under Nitaqat) are free to work for companies in compliance (known as "green" companies) without acquiring permission from their employers at noncomplying companies.
Most working Saudis are employed by the state, and a large number of Saudis in the private sector are in mid-level or higher managerial positions, leaving most nonmanagement-level private-sector jobs to foreign workers, especially in the services, retail and construction sectors.
Dependence on foreign labor is a complicated issue with various causes, including a social stigma against certain forms of labor, such as Saudi women working as maids or cashiers; insufficient numbers of Saudis with the requisite skills and educational backgrounds for some professions; and the refusal of Saudi consumers to pay more for products and services so that employers can pay higher wages to attract Saudis to jobs, especially in the services and retail sectors.
Investing heavily in infrastructure and mega projects, the Kingdom's demand for manpower is said to be on the rise.
During the past two years, the Ministry of Labor has issued more than two million work visas. Construction workers are almost all foreign laborers earning as little as SR1,000 a month in communal housing.
The Nitaqat program has been launched to evaluate private entities based on their achieved percentage of Saudi employees in relation to other companies of their size and type of economic activity.
Red companies will not be allowed to renew work visas for their foreign employees, so those foreign workers should be most concerned about their future employment prospects.
Yellow companies may renew work visas for up to six years for each foreign employee, but this time limit is retroactive.
In other words, a foreign worker who has worked for four years for a company that turns out to be yellow, can only renew his visa status with that employer for an additional two years or until that employer's status switches to green, whichever comes first. Companies' Nitaqat status is expected to be made public before the end of the year.
Foreign workers who learn that their employer is categorized as red will need to find employment with a green company before their visas expire.
But the Labor Ministry insists that workers who find out they cannot renew their visas with their current employers will be given the "mobility" to move to a green company.
The Ministry of Labor is also planning to unveil a number of new regulations and services this year. It includes a new framework for recruitment agencies, a wage-protection system, mandatory insurance policy for domestic labor and a 24/7 multi-lingual emergency hotline for complaints. When foreign workers will be able to find out what color their employer falls under and how long they have to wait if their employer is in the "red" is still unknown.
© Arab News 2011
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.
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