The Saudi government’s correction campaign would benefit citizens and expatriates, ensure a healthy labor market and boost the country’s economy, according to several economists.
However, they said the labor market would thrive only if government ensures that companies employ qualified foreigners, and they are barred from transferring their sponsorship and changing their professions.
There should also be strict monitoring to ensure no one hires a foreigner with a criminal record.
Farouq Al-Khatib, professor of economics at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, said all parties including the government and private recruiting agents should make an effort to regulate the employment market in the Kingdom.
“Recruitment agencies should cooperate in a more effective manner to achieve the goals of the current rectification process. They should only recruit foreign workers who have the right qualifications.”
Al-Khatib said construction subcontractors have employed huge numbers of unqualified expatriates for major projects.
“This practice has affected the quality of developmental projects especially when the unqualified workers have no engineering supervision and no skills to carry out their assigned tasks,” the economist said.
“There are several projects that have been completed in a faulty manner by unqualified workers,” he said. He said the labor rectification campaign would result in a temporary delay of new projects.
He called on government to change the law, to ban expatriates from changing their professions and transferring their sponsorship. If a sponsor does not need a worker, he should be sent back to his country, he said.
The academic also wanted government to ensure foreign workers have their documents attested by Saudi missions abroad. The government should also ensure that firms do not hire workers with criminal records.
Salim Baujaja, professor of economics at Taif University, said there are many illegal workers in the country because the Ministry of Labor had not issued enough visas for companies needing workers.
“The Ministry of Labor should issue the visas required by a company so that developmental projects are not adversely affected especially in the construction sector.”
Baujaja said construction companies hired many illegal workers and would be the most affected by the crackdown on illegal workers.
Osama Felali, professor of economics at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, warned that the labor campaign would affect mostly large projects in Makkah, Madinah and other provinces.
“The Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Interior and some other departments have to correct some mistakes. These ministries should find solutions to issues in such a way that the solutions agree with the reality on the ground.”
He said that the construction sector was vital for the Kingdom’s development.