What's all the stink about? 7 reasons Saudi will pay price of booting out the hired help

Published November 14th, 2013 - 14:04 GMT

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Water delivery
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Image 1 of 7: Not a drop to spare: The desert Kingdom relies on desalination plants and the constant stream of water delivery door to door. Deporting the fleet of truck drivers may have been a slight oversight on the part of the government and drivers were left high and dry when sponsors of their right to keep the traveling oasis flowing pulled out last minute.

street seller
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Image 1 of 7: Getting your 5-a-day (fruit n veg n prayers) just got more expensive than an imported Kobe beef burger. With produce prices increase 100% in some areas due to a labor shortage, residents are forgoing their fattoush and sticking with whatever foods they can get on the cheap. Time to put the green of Saudi’s flag back into the national work-force?

saudi labour
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Image 1 of 7: Building castles in the air: Saudis construction plans to make their building boom break UAE and world records may have been sabotaged with projects suspended mid-way without work crews. Bad timing for work-in-progress Kingdom Tower. It’s unlikely that Saudis will put their eyesight on the line by exposing their corneas to scorching outdoor sun.

saudi students
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Image 1 of 7: School on extended recess: Many of KSA’s schools rely on expat teacher labor, and with most janitors ‘expelled’ under the new law, schools are closing their gates. With all this time off from school, maybe child labor can plug the gap, though no guarantee of Saudiization quotas being met given the speckled population of expat kids.

KSA deportations
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Image 1 of 7: Saudi streets stink of more than garbage: KSA’s deportations have lead to violent standoffs between police and foreign workers. As riots lead to more injuries, let’s hope hospital staffs (with heavy Filippina nursing populations) are not among the deported or Saudis may really be shooting themselves in the foot with this latest stunt.

saudi street food
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Image 1 of 7: Convenience store lock-down causes inconvenience for Saudi consumers. Late night munchies? With no ‘undocumented workers’ to man the food stalls in Jeddah frequented by the hungry, Saudis can forget midnight shwarma snacking. And given that small-medium businesses are considered the healthy backbone of any economy, this is a dangerous trend.

labour deportation
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Image 1 of 7: Saudi’s “trash” is other Gulf states’ treasures: KSA’s deported labor are finding new homes and work in other countries like Bahrain or Kuwait, and more than 50% of KSA contracting companies have closed as a result of the foreign worker exodus. “Saudiization” of the economy may thus come at a bigger price tag than initially expected.

In a country whose economic viability came to depend on foreign workers, Saudi Arabia’s recent labor raids are expected to result in the deportation of more than a million workers. This will herald a new era in Saudi’s economy and “humanitarian” record on the treatment of migrant workers that hail from the heavily disadvantaged parts of the globe -- an interesting chiming in just this week with Saudi Arabia being given a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. This clean sweep in a bid to flush out the illegals leaves many asking what is so legal about the legal workers who are often ‘treated like animals’?

In an attempt to “clean-up” the country of those very hands who actually keep its streets clean, seven months ago the Saudi government launched what it called an “amnesty” or “grace period” to give illegal workers a chance to rectify or resolve their status. Although Saudi Arabia did have illegal workers like those who chose to overstay their hajj-visa, the grace period was in response to deliberate changes made to Saudi Labor Law that would render those who previously enjoyed a legal status as “aliens” that should be hunted down by the state and deported.

The deadline of the amnesty came to pass on Nov. 3 and was marked by endless administrative hurdles and gave the authorities a “legal” excuse to criminalize, deport, or even shoot at those who work hard to deliver what many Saudi nationals and residents take for granted.

Given that real criminals still face a possibility of getting away with hideous crimes like rape, torture, and even killing their own infant children, perhaps, it is a bit shameless to hold up the law to those just looking to make a living.

Besides the disturbing humanitarian context at play, many claim that the deportations are a legitimate economic response to the Kingdom’s unemployment woes and high Saudiization aspirations, given that the unemployment rate of localsstands at 13%. But to pretend that locals are going to wake up and happily undertake a vast array of new job vacancies in construction, water delivery, school cleaning and fueling up people’s cars is unrealistic, to say the least. Given that most of those with  the practical know-how are probably rotting in prison or on the next flight home, even the humble Saudis willing to undertake what are considered sub-par jobs will not find the guidance they need to transition into them.

But one must give credit where it’s due, and the Saudi government is no exception. They are, after all, footing the bill for the one-way ticket home for workers they have unceremoniously booted out of the Kingdom. Yet considering the KSA has benefited from the immigrant population who took on the jobs that locals spurned, it is perhaps the least they could do for those now faced with an uncertain future and practically no rights or social security.  

All in all, illegal or not, the low to middle income workers in the oil rich Gulf Kingdom will once have made up half the residents and over seventy percent of the worker bees that build and keep the country running.

It is a no-brainer that removing the backbone and expat hard labor of support that Saudi’s wealthiest have come to take for granted might cause immediate repercussions on the economy. Which leads into this exercise in catching a glimpse at what life without these “luxuries” will look like for Saudis having to go solo or cold Turkey without their hired and enslaved help. This is only a review of the immediate outcome of the deportations. The elusive, and more alarming assessment pending begs the question “what will the long term effects of the recent deportation bender be on the country known to being home for the most Billionaires in the Middle East”?

Who knew how much of Saudi’s infrastructure rested with a migrant (now shunted off) labor force. While we may have all suspected as much, here’s a break-down of the consequences of shooing out your workforce….


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