The private sector in Saudi Arabia is hiring only one national for every 13 foreigners, according to job market statistics reported Monday by al-Riyadh daily.
Recent figures show that the Saudi government has issued 1.1 million visas for foreign workers over the last 12 months. In comparison, 83,000 Saudis have been hired in the private sector during the same period.
Increasing the number of work visas issued for the private sector to more than 1.1 million visas directly or indirectly impacts the hiring of Saudi nationals in the private sector, analyst Mohammad al-Salim told the newspaper.
However, the labor ministry raised concerns that restrictions on work visas might slow down the execution of development projects in the country. But with the unemployment rate officially above 10 percent, and even higher among young people, the ministry is under pressure to create jobs for them.
The ministry launched a new effort called “Nitaqat” in September 2011, designed to boost nationalization in the private sector, but the program faced criticism from business owners and experts who said the effort has harmed small businesses.
Analyst Abdul-Rahman al-Qahtani told the newspaper that many of the jobs created by "Nitaqat" are not sustainable because businesses cannot keep up with the requirements of the program which demands a certain percentage of Saudization based on the size of the organization and its activities.
The International Monetary Fund warned GCC countries that the creation of millions of new jobs in the region in recent years has not been enough to reduce the unemployment for nationals since most of these jobs are taken by expatriate workers.