It is time to replace expat workers with Saudis

It is time to replace expat workers with Saudis

Dr. Ehsan Buhaliqa

Dr. Ehsan Buhaliqa




By Dr. Ehsan Buhaliqa





The only way to improve the income of Saudi men and women is by creating better opportunities for jobs in the private sector that offer good salaries. Apparently, we seem to have failed in qualifying young Saudi men and women to hold technical and specialist positions; in other words, positions that require skilled workers. We have at least 2.6 million jobs that need highly-qualified Saudis. These positions are currently held by non-Saudis.

Some people in our country fight Saudization and refuse to replace expats with Saudis. Why don’t those people train Saudi men and women to be the future replacements of expatriates? Why do concerned public agencies not join forces to increase the percentage of the Saudi workforce that holds skilled positions? This is going to be a major challenge for the Commission for Job Generation and Anti-unemployment.

Some believe that the Ministry of Labor and Social Development can accomplish this task alone and that there was no need to set up such a commission. Personally speaking, I believe it was important to set up the commission in order to unite the efforts of all concerned ministries and human resource development agencies. Currently, Saudi youth are trained well but are not given good jobs where they can put what they have learned into practice. The labor market continues to suffer from unemployment, a high percentage of expatriate recruitment, low productivity and poor utilization of local human resources.

The job opportunities that should be created for youth need to be lucrative and exciting. These opportunities should spur young Saudis on to exert more effort in order to rekindle their ambition to be successful.

Recent statistics indicate that there are 660,000 unemployed Saudis and that around four million Saudis are employed compared with seven million expats. Saudi job seekers constitute 12.1 percent of the Saudi workforce. The question is: How can we create job opportunities for unemployed Saudis? This can be done through replacement. Our economy cannot now create new job opportunities for both Saudis and non-Saudis.

In fact, the replacement policy is effective and was suggested over 20 years ago but has not been applied efficiently. The policy was introduced in the 1990s according to a decision made by the Council of Ministers. It focuses on gradually replacing expats with Saudis and not waiting for an expatriate worker to retire or leave a job. However, the policy has not been put into practice efficiently over the past 20 years. What are we going to do to reduce unemployment and when are we going to implement the replacement policy?

The new commission should ensure that the replacement policy is implemented and that young Saudi men and women are given better job opportunities. This is one of the effective ways to bolster and enhance our national economy.