Despite the fact that the Saudization of several industries is facing major obstacles, Saudi authorities aren't slowing down efforts to nationalize jobs in the country. In contrast, officials are signing more agreements to Saudize major parts of the agriculture sector.
Earlier this month, the kingdom's Ministry of Labor and Social Development signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with six government agencies that will now provide 32,500 jobs to young Saudis in the agriculture sector. The latest agreement is set to Saudize 6,000 jobs in various agriculture fields, in addition to 6,500 jobs in firms that have signed contracts with the water sector, and over 20,000 occupations in privately owned firms.
The MoU also aims to promote and support a self-employment project within the sector.
The ministry's move comes in line with the kingdom's Vision 2030 and its National Transformation Program. Both initiatives are focused on decreasing the country's chronically high unemployment rates by nationalizing jobs usually filled by expats.
However, in recent months, many have criticized these efforts and questioned their success given the fact that local unemployment rates have been unaffected by the exit of hundreds of thousands of foreign workers from the kingdom.
Though vacancies are opening up for locals, Saudi business owners have previously disclosed having difficulty getting nationals who are "accustomed to undemanding work in the state sector and generous unemployment benefits" to work for them.
Some local private companies even went about finding loopholes to a law that required them to hire a specific percentage of Saudis when they couldn't find locals to fill up jobs. They resorted to a process called "fake Saudization," which involves hiring Saudis and paying them low salaries not to work but to be legally registered as workers at their establishments.
The sectors that were Saudized at a glance
The kingdom issued a royal order early September banning local government departments from seeking consultancy services from foreign firms and limiting them to working with Saudi companies instead.
In recent months, the country partly nationalized its retail sector, which was previously dominated by expats and foreigner input. Last year, there were 330,000 nationals working in retail and wholesale business, versus 440,000 (men and women) in 2019.
The country's public sector in its entirety is also moving towards Saudizing its entities. In 2017, the kingdom's Ministry of Civil Service ordered all ministries and government departments to terminate contracts with expatriate workers within three years. Only Saudi nationals will be able to replace those who lose their jobs in the government.