JEDDAH — Following the directive of the Ministry of Labor for Saudization of the telecom industry, expat workers of mobile phone shops have started wrapping up their work. As a result of which business in mobile markets, especially repair shops, has slowed down considerably.
In Jeddah, several cell phone shops have shut down and owners are frantically seeking Saudi workers. While some are looking for alternate jobs, majority of the expatriate workers are unable to find work here due to their area of expertise and strained economic conditions.
According to ministry’s directive, 50 percent of expat workers will be replaced with Saudis within three months, beginning from June 6 and 100 percent within six months, starting from Sept. 3.
“I’ve been repairing mobile phones for last 10 years and now with less than a month left to hand over my work and return back to my country, I’m hoping for a last-minute change in the Saudization rule,” said Ali Hakeem, an Indian worker at a local mobile repair shop.
According to reports, Indians will be among the most affected by this rule as mobile phone sales and repairing are their main domains. Hakeem added that it’s an emotional moment when his longtime customers come to his shop with cracked screens or damaged keypads, but he is helpless because he doesn’t have the required spare parts as he has been asked by his Saudi owner to stop business and leave work soon.
Majd Salem, a Yemeni worker at a local mobile repair shop who has been in this industry for over seven years, said mobile phone industry is extremely fast paced with new technologies coming ever so often. “It’s relatively easy to sell mobile phones but repair work and maintenance for mobile phones is a technical job and one needs certain level of expertise to handle it.” He added that he was supporting his family back home with his income and would definitely look for alternate jobs in the Kingdom.
Hasan Mahmoud, a mobile shop owner in the well-known mobile market on Jeddah’s Palestine Street, said he is having a very difficult time looking for Saudi workers and with the Saudization deadline approaching soon, he fears he might have to close down his shop. “I’ve been giving ads on online job portals but finding Saudis to work at the same wage rates as expats is nearly impossible and I haven’t received any applicants so far,” he said.