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20,000 Saudis to replace expat phone shop workers

Stores selling mobile phones and accessories in Saudi Arabia are to ensure at least 50% of staff are Saudi nationals within 3 months’ time, escalating to a planned 100% in six months.

This change comes after authorities in Saudi Arabia set out to ‘Saudise’ the working sector; agreeing to train up 20,000 nationals to replace expat workers currently in employment. Foreign workers will actually be banned from working in establishments selling communication devices in a bid to provide more jobs to Saudi citizens.

Trainees must be unemployed Saudis between the age of 18 and 60 and must not have received any previous training within the sector. Individuals will receive training programmes in the basic maintenance of mobiles phones, sales and customer service. There will also be opportunities to undergo advanced mobile phone maintenance training at colleges and institutes in various locations of the country.

With roughly 600,000 reported as unemployed by tradingeconomics.com in January 2016, it is not surprising that authorities are seeking any opportunities to get nationals in to the workplace, sacrificing the jobs of expats for the greater good of struggling Saudi citizens.

The Human Resources Development Fund (HADAF) and the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) have teamed up to provide the training, with the HADAF footing the bill and providing 50% of the trainees’ salaries when they take up employment in mobile phone retailers.

The vast majority of jobs in Saudi Arabia’s retail sector are held by expat workers from South East Asia and India – they are generally paid much lower wages than the Saudi citizens so are an attractive option for retail managers.

Indians will be the demographic most affected by the changes, as mobile phone sales and repairing is one of their major domains.

Saudi entrepreneurs will also be supported by the changes. In a bid to rejuvenate the working incentive, the fund is also extending financial benefit to these individuals in collaboration with the National Entrepreneurship Institute.

Furthermore, the owners of independent or smaller mobile phone shops have not been forgotten. The Saudi Press Agency reported that these establishments would receive SR3,000 (approximately £560) per month for two years.

The ministry started implementing the new ‘Saudization’ drive from 10th March, with deadlines in place for managers of establishments to have replaced expatriate workers.

Saudi officials were recently reported to have raided mobile phone shops in the country to investigate whether illegal foreign works were being employed and punitive measures are being taken against any shop found to be violating the new measures put in place.

The new law does not specify what will happen to existing workers. It is likely that most of them will have to leave the country unless they manage to find another job.

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