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Doing Business in the Middle East
Doing Business in the Middle East
|Posted on May 17, 2013 at 11:58 AM|
So tomorrow (Saturday, 18 May 2013) is the day that Saudi officials will start the expat exit process for those who want to leave the Kingdom. This entire process, from announcement to implementing has been worrisome for both the expats themselves and the employers they are working for. The end of the three-month grace period is 3 July, so there is still a bit of time for some to figure out what road they will take. Most of the affected expats come from high poverty countries like India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Ethiopia and Yemen.
If I understand this correctly, under Saudi law, iqama requires all foreign residents to sponsord by either a Saudi company or an individual. After the initial announcement, some workers have opt to not go to work to dodge spot inspections.
The Saudi government has decided to enforce stricter quotas as historically the rule about expats only working for their sponsor been predominately disregarded. One of the main reasons this is now being enforced is to close a loophole that permitted companies to get around sharing how many Saudi nationals they employ. (If I have this wrong, please feel free to comment below.)
The aim is to tackle the unemployment issue amongst Saudi nationals by getting more Saudis into private sector jobs and to help preserve Saudi workers However, what is not being addressed by the changes (and again, if I am wrong, please feel free to comment) is that Saudis demand higher wages than expats from developing nations and the local labor laws make it very difficult to fire the Saudi nationals. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, many Saudi nationals are not qualified for the jobs and feel that the positions available are “below them”.
The Kingdom has a significant “black market” for cheap expat labor. What has happened to fuel this demand, many expats are registered with one company, as a “cover”, but then work for another. Many of these “black market” expats fear that by coming forward and requesting to change sponsors will not be granted. As a double whammy, the companies they work for do not want to officially hire more expat workers.
As of today, The Labor Ministry denies reports that it is enforcing immediate deportations, but people who lose their official residency status must leave the Kingdom. However, across Saudi Arabia, the affected workers have been telling stories of spot inspections and sudden deportations. The regulations were announced last year, the government announced in March that it would start enforcing the changes with spot inspections.
With the deadline of July 3 approaching, these Illegal workers here are trying to make as much money as possible before they either report and change their status or go home. They are dodging officials because they know if they get caught, they are sent home.
My concern, as someone investing in the success of non-Saudi companies coming into the Kingdom for these massive construction projects is that in order for them to be done on-time and on-budget, these workers are needed. Some believe this is a passing trend and that the situation will work itself out
It will be interesting to see how it plays-out and how much actually changes.