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Saudi Arabia easing restrictions on foreign workers

Freedoms include changing jobs, leaving country without employer's permission

SAMAA | - Posted: Nov 4, 2020 | Last Updated: 4 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Nov 4, 2020 | Last Updated: 4 months ago
Saudi Arabia easing restrictions on foreign workers

Photo: AFP

Saudi Arabia is going to ease restrictions on foreign workers in the Kingdom, including the freedom to change jobs.

The country’s deputy minister for human resources, Abdullah bin Nasser Abuthunain, told the media on Wednesday that the plan would come into effect from March 2021.

Another key restriction that will be eased is foreign workers’ right to leave the kingdom without their employer’s permission.

The ministry said the development will allow workers the right to change jobs by transferring sponsorship from one employer to another and leaving and re-entering the country without the consent of their employer. The move is part of Saudi Arabia’s goal to improve its labour market attractiveness, according to the deputy minister.

According to Al Jazeera, the ‘Labour Relation Initiative’ will affect 10 million foreign workers, which is about a third of Saudi Arabia’s total population.

Most of Pakistan’s overseas labour force is located in Saudi Arabia. In 2019, Saudi Arabia increased its quota for employment of labourers from Pakistan and over 200,000 people travelled to the Kingdom.

The Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis says millions of Pakistanis are in Saudi Arabia, and it is the largest country to host Pakistani nationals.

But Saudi Arabia has had a dismal track record when it comes to human rights, including rights for migrant workers. Al Jazeera interviewed Rothna Begum, who recently wrote about how many Saudi employers exploited this control by taking workers’ passports, forcing them to work excessive hours and denying them wages. This has led to thousands of workers fleeing their employers and becoming undocumented.

The reform plan is part of the grander Vision 2030 plan spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. He wants to make Saudi Arabia more attractive to foreign investors and move its economy away from oil dependency.

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