The Saudi Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD) has announced a new list of jobs and activities that will be off-limits to expatriates in the kingdom starting from September this year.

“The Minister of Labour and Social Development has issued a decision to restrict work in 12 activities and occupations to Saudi men and women at the beginning of next Hijri year; to enable their employment in the private sector,” Khaled Abalkhail, the official spokesperson for the ministry said in a statement posted in Arabic on the ministry’s website.

The statement detailed the list of activities that will be limited to Saudi citizens.

From September 11 this year, sales jobs will be nationalised in four categories: cars & motorcycles; ready-made garments, children’s clothes & men’s accessories; home and office furniture; and home kitchenware.

From November 9, the rules will be extended to the sale of: electronics and electric appliances; watches; and eyewear. Finally, from January 7, 2019, the rules will be extended to the sale of medical equipment & appliances; building & construction materials; car spare parts shops; carpet and floorcovering stores; and finally sweet shops.

The statement issued on the MLSD’s website said that a committee would be formed to develop a programme to nationalise jobs in these industries, with committee members drawn from the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, the Human Resources Fund (Hadaf) and the Social Development Bank.

The ministry’s recent experience with full Saudisation of industries like telecoms retail and gold shops would support the implementation of these new roles, according to Murtadha Al-Yousef, the founder and general manager of Saudi Employment- a firm that provides recruitment services for Saudi nationals to the public and private sector.

“There are also many Saudis who are already working in the 12 activities that have now been restricted to nationals, so this would facilitate reaching Saudisation targets within the set timeframe” Al-Yousef told Zawya by email.

“While the ministry has not yet set specific penalties for those who violate Saudisation in the new sectors, I expect these to include hefty financial fines, as well as deportation in some cases,” he added.

Saudi Arabia last month approved a 7 billion Saudi riyal ($1.87 billion) package to support SMEs through the reimbursement of government fees, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency, in a bid to stimulate the private sector and create new employment opportunities for Saudi citizens.

The latest official statistics show that the total Saudi unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2017 remained unchanged from the previous quarter, at 12.8 percent. The unemployment rate among Saudi women seeking work was 32.7 percent in the third quarter of 2017, while the unemployment rate among Saudi men was 7.4 percent.

(Reporting by Nada Al Rifai; Editing by Michael Fahy)

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