Saudi Arabia still going hard at labor market overhaul
A senior Labor Ministry official said Saturday that the ministry would continue its campaign against violators of residency and labor laws in a systematic manner in its bid to overhaul the Kingdom’s labor market.
“These are not random raids but a systematic campaign to track down illegal workers in private firms,” said Abdullah Abu Thunain, undersecretary for inspections and development at the ministry.
He said the ministry was conducting raids on the basis of an electronic data. “This is different from inspections carried out by the Labor Office on the basis of specific information it has received.” Since the beginning of the campaign on Nov. 4 following the seven-month amnesty, the ministry has denied about 50,000 private firms access to its services. “The correction campaign will continue and the ministry is very serious about it,” he said.
Speaking about the wage protection program, Abu Thunain said it was not aimed at controlling foreign remittances of expat workers. “It actually aims at protecting the rights of Saudis and expats by making sure they got their salaries as per work contracts without delay.” He disclosed the ministry’s plan to increase the support to companies and small and medium enterprises to 75 percent of salaries given to Saudis. The Human Resource Development Fund gives such payments. Since the beginning of the Nitaqat program, more than 700,000 Saudis have received jobs in the private sector.
About the mechanism for raids, the official said well-trained officers carrying identity cards would conduct the raids. “They introduce themselves before inspections.” Nearly 15,000 illegal workers have been arrested in the Eastern Province after the raids. “We are not targeting a particular sector during inspections,” said Col. Ziyad Al-Roqaity, spokesman of police in the region.
Abdul Rahman Al-Zamil, president of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, emphasized the importance of labor raids and said it would benefit businesses in the long run and strengthen the Kingdom’s labor market.