Young, enthusiastic Saudis embracing garment sector

No immediate threat to expatriate employees in big outlets


Saudi Gazette

AS the Muharram 1 (Sept. 11) deadline approached for the first phase of Saudization in the retail sector, big outlets specialized in ready-made garments prepared themselves to adhere to the new rules. But small scale traders who were not able to comply with the rules were forced to shutter their doors.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has given more than enough time to adjust and adhere to the new policy of localization of the jobs in this sector.

Expatriates from Yemen, India, Bangladesh and Nepal have long dominated the garments trade. Some garment houses already notified them a long ago about the proposed changes and prepared them to relinquish the jobs.

Leading players in the retail garment sector are not only recruiting a large number of Saudi men and women to work in their shops but also trying to retain their expatriate staff also. The retention of the staff is in sales division but in support services beyond working hours.

However, a few expatriate employees were laid off as part of cost cutting measure in addition to adherence to the new policy of localization.

Big outlets have modified their working schedule to accommodate newly recruited Saudi employees as well as many of the existing expatriate employees. They have extended working hours and added extra shift in the night to accommodate where expatriate workers are engaged in displaying and packing of garments for the next day.

There is no immediate threat to jobs of some of the expatriate workers but many of the positions they held earlier were realigned. However, most of them feel that there is no more future in the sector.

Young Saudi men — and also women — recruited by retail shop owners are enthusiastic about their job and they are working with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm.

Sadly, many of these Saudis especially women were more educated than their expatriate counterparts, yet they have been opting for less attractive salary, compared with other compatriots employed in administrative jobs.

The long working hours till 11.30 in the night is a major concern for them as it is disrupting their family life, specially married women.

“Though retail sector is something new to us, by working here I am enjoying,” said a young sales woman, who does not want to reveal her name, working in a leading retail garment giant store in Jeddah. She told Saudi Gazette that “It is difficult me to reach home in the night after working hours”.

A senior manager of a leading garments and other fashion group told Saudi Gazette that due to long working hours and less wages Saudis are not keen to pursue their career in the sector.

She told Saudi Gazette that Saudis opting for retail sector only when they fail to find job in any other fields.

The manager also hailed the cooperation that expatriate employees have extended to the newly recruited Saudi employees.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has first banned expatriates working in these shops. Later it reduced the size to 30 percent including outsourcing cleaning and support staff. Remaining 70 percent were required to be Saudi citizens excluding security guards and other support services. Garment shops are among the 12 retail sectors that should have 70 percent Saudization from Tuesday.

The ministry and regional governorates have been monitoring the Saudization drive in this sector.