70% Saudization takes effect in optical shops next week

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Some of the optical stores are run by expatriates under tasattur arrangement with their employers.



Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH —
Scores of optical shops in Jeddah and the rest of the Kingdom are facing a big challenge as most sales jobs in the field will be reserved for Saudi nationals effective from next week.

Optical shops are among the sectors where 70 percent Saudization has been made mandatory.

There are approximately 6,000 optical shops in the Kingdom and most of them deal in prescription glasses and contact lenses. When the Saudization rule takes effect, it will be challenging mainly for the small- and medium-scale shops that employ or three salespeople.

Some of these shops are manned by Arab and Asian expatriates with many of them being run under a tasattur (cover-up) arrangement in violation of the regulations.

In the run-up to the implementation of the Saudization rule, most of these shops have been selling eyeglasses, notably sunglasses, at discounted prices in order to clear their inventories before possible closure.

The expatriate salesmen in these shops are in a dilemma because of their job status and many of them are preparing to leave the Kingdom while others are planning to shut down shops run by them in the name of their employers.

«The profits that we earn would not remain attractive as most of it will go toward paying the wages of Saudi salesmen,» said an expatriate associated with an optical shop chain. The business will no longer be sustainable for the small players, he added.

«I have been selling eye-wear here for the last 15 years but my days are numbered. Now I am merely doing the helper›s job in the shop besides attending to household works of my employer,» an expatriate worker at another shop told Saudi Gazette.

Many Asian expatriates who work in the field as optometrists cannot continue on their jobs as the criteria set by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialists do not recognize their qualifications because the duration of their course of study is less compared with those in the Arab countries.

The Ministry of Health has classified optical shops into three categories. The Class A shops are licensed to conduct vision tests, prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and sell the appropriate visual aid to the patients.

Class B shops are licensed to sell glasses and contact lenses based on prescriptions from an ophthalmologist or optometrist, but they are not allowed to conduct vision tests. The Class C shops can only sell eyeglasses and not contact lenses.

All optical shops are required to follow the Medical Devices National Registry (MDNR) of Saudi Drug and Food Authority (SFDA) rules. The SFDA and the Ministry of Health as well as the municipalities are regularly conducting periodic inspections and initiating penal actions against errant shops.

The optometrists are required to pass examinations conducted by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialists. Currently there is a shortage of qualified Saudi graduates available to meet the needs of local optical market.

The Kingdom is the largest optical market in the Middle East. In 2017, Saudi Arabia imported 3.8 million eyeglasses with total value over SR152 million.


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