Taxi companies across Saudi Arabia are expected to hire more than 28,000 Saudi drivers to replace foreigners who dominate the sector, according to the Labor Ministry which announced a plan to localize the transportation sector on Sunday.
The new plan, which is expected to be put into effect in three months’ time, will fetch Saudi drivers a monthly salary of at least SR 5,000 ($1,333), including financial support from a Human Resources Development Fund, a well-informed source told Arab News on Sunday.
According to the source, the plan aims to encourage Saudi youth to take up cab driver’s jobs in an attempt to replace foreigners. There are three ongoing initiatives to help young Saudi drivers own their own taxi. These include a scheme by the Saudi Credit and Savings Bank and the Abdullatif Jameel Community Initiative, a project by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
Currently, there are more than 43,000 taxis owned by 1,375 companies in the kingdom. Among the drivers, Saudis account for 15,000 while the remaining 28,000 are foreigners. Nearly 40 percent of taxis operate in Riyadh, 33 percent in Jeddah and 17 percent in the Eastern Province. Other cities in the kingdom have a nominal presence of taxis with 5 percent, according to Arab News.
Under the intended Nitaqat Saudization program, taxi companies are only required to hire 12 percent of nationals to meet the Saudization quota by the Ministry of Labor but with the new plan the sector is expected to exceed the set quota in this category.
In 2002, the Council of Ministers took a decision to completely Saudize the taxi sector with the objective of opening job opportunities for tens of thousands of Saudi job seekers. Although the target period for compliance with the regulation was given until the year 2004, several obstacles arose which made it difficult to implement the decision.
As a response, the ministry announced in 2005, that the inadequacy of Saudi drivers had forced it to put off full nationalization of taxi business for an unspecified period.
Moreover, most hiring is during Haj time, where about 240 Haj companies, as well as car syndicates, are forced to hiring 4,000 drivers and buses from abroad due to the lack of Saudi bus drivers during the Haj season.
“Transportation companies were very interested in hiring Saudi drivers but no Saudi driver has applied for a job during Haj over the past years. But these companies might end up being fined if they do not achieve the Saudization quota or be barred from recruiting foreign drivers,” Vice Chairman of the Public Transportation Committee, Saeed al-Bassami, told Saudi Gazette last year.
“There are already more than 300,000 buses in Saudi Arabia and there are over 150,000 employment opportunities in the sector,” he added.
(Additional writing by Ikram al-Yacoub)