Saudi 40-hour working week scrapped in private sector
A plan by Saudi Arabia’s labour ministry to give two days off a week in the private sector is being shelved following tremendous pressure from investors and the business community.
A draft of the new labour law initially stipulated a 40-hour working week, down from 48, for all employees in the private sector.
However, strong lobbying and pressure from the business community and investors resulted in the withdrawal of the article related to the number of hours a private sector employee must put, local daily Makkah reported on Wednesday.
The two-day weekend was a cornerstone in the ambitious labour reforms launched by the labour ministry to boots local employment opportunities and motivate Saudi men and women to join the private sector instead of insisting on securing a job in the more attractive public sector where employees enjoy Fridays and Saturdays off.
The Shura Council had pushed for the adoption of the two-day weekend in the private sector.
However, the business community staunchly opposed the move, arguing that it would result in heavy losses for the economy, mainly in the construction and maintenance sectors.
Businessmen said that these sectors had large public and private contracts based on a six-day, 48-hour working week and they needed to honour them.
A move endorsed by some Shura Council members to drop the five-day work article from the new labour law was defeated by the Council after it refused a new vote on the issue.
“The Council agreed to keep the article that stipulated that workers should nopt be made to work more than eight hours a day and 40 hours a week,” Fahad Al Hamad, Deputy Chairman, said then.
The members in favour of keeping the six-day working week said that reducing the hours from 48 to 40 would increase the cost of items and services by 30 per cent and would therefore cause an inflation that Saudi families would not be able to sustain.
They also argued that the number of foreigners in the kingdom would increase by 20 per cent.
Saudi Arabia is home to around nine million foreigners, mainly unskilled workers from Asian countries in the construction and service sectors.
They make up around one third of the country’s total population.
The labour market reforms targeted mainly young graduates and Saudi women who have been encouraged to take up jobs in the private sector.