In recent years, Saudi Arabia has taken major steps to make the "Saudization" process a reality, however, it seems as though it hasn't been going as planned.

The kingdom's "Saudization" process aims to nationalize its workforce by reducing its reliance on foreign labor. Thus, non-Saudis have seen fewer job opportunities available to them in recent months. 

The number of foreign workers declined by 6 percent in the first three months of 2018. More than 234,000 expats left the kingdom during the same period.

In just 18 months, more than 800,000 expats have left the country. The number exceeds an estimation in 2017 which claimed 670,000 expats would leave Saudi Arabia by 2020.

However, the departure of expats has not helped decrease the unemployment rate among Saudi nationals.

On the contrary, the kingdom witnessed its highest-ever unemployment rate among its citizens during the first quarter of 2018.

"Expat Exodus"

One columnist provided a detailed explanation of the "failure" of the Saudization process in the private sector.

"Employers say young Saudi men and women are lazy and are not interested in working and accuse Saudi youth of preferring to stay at home rather than to take a low-paying job that does not befit the social status of a Saudi job seeker," Mohammed Bassnawi wrote

He called out the program as "fake" explaining that the plan "could create a generation of young men and women who are not interested in finding a job and who prefer to get paid for doing nothing."

Numbers from The General Authority for Statistics (GaStat) expose the extreme differences in the number of expat employees versus Saudi nationals in various sectors.

There are 2.4 million expats working as "support engineers" compared to the 221,000 Saudis, according to Saudi Gazette. 

More than 488,000 expats are employed as technicians, as opposed to the 206,000 Saudis. Expats working as technical specialists reached more than 288,000. 

However, just 164,100 Saudis occupy a similar position. Nationalizing the workforce is part of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 plan.

With some nine million foreigners employed in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom has been intensifying its efforts to boost employment opportunities for Saudi nationals under the program.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been reducing its reliance on expats

The kingdom has passed several orders under the Vision 2030 plan, including one that terminates all contracts pertaining to expatriate workers in governments and ministries within three years and another that nationalizes jobs in shopping malls. 

In 2017, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Labor and Social Development issued an order reducing the validity of expat work visas for private sector employees in the country from two years to one year.

In November 2017, the Ministry of Labor and Development arrested a number of expats caught working in nationalized sectors. It also warned violators of deportation.

According to the Saudi Gazette, authorities have apprehended 1.35 million expats in the past 8 months. 

Vision 2030 also aims to develop non-oil-related industries, support small and medium enterprises, increase the participation of Saudi women in the workforce, and create a broader investment base in the country.