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Saudi Arabia restricts expatriates from working in 22 job sectors

Saudi Arabia has set aside 22 new job sectors for Saudi nationals, in an attempt to curb unemployment and enhance the pace of its 2000-2004 development plan that aims to create jobs for 817,000 Saudis

Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the world’s largest oil producer, has reserved 22 occupations for Saudi nationals in a bid to tackle growing unemployment in the oil-rich Kingdom, according to newspaper reports on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The decision, issued by Labor Minister Ali al-Namlah, is part of the country’s Saudization plans that aim to reduce wide-scale unemployment among Saudis, unofficially standing at 20 percent. Labour offices were given orders this week not to authorise recruitment of expatriates in 22 sectors, according to Saudi papers.

These positions include administrative managers, purchasing managers, tour guides, car salesmen, public relations officers and secretaries.

The decision came a day after Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto leader, told the Council of Ministers that the government was committed to creating more job opportunities for Saudis in both the private and public sectors, according to the English-language daily Arab News.

Last year, authorities banned non-Saudis under 40-years old from working in gold shops. Currently private companies employing more than 20 people must employ at least six Saudis. The Kingdom is also mulling a 10% income tax on expatriates; a move many analysts say might deter companies from hiring expatriates.

The Saudi 2000-2004 development plan hopes to create jobs for 817,000 Saudis.

It is estimated that 4.5 million expatriates and 2.5 million Saudis are employed in the private sector in the oil-rich kingdom, which saw its per capita income drop from US $26,000 in the early 1980s to US $7,000 in 2001.

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