Saudi Arabia's retail sector is on its way to becoming a field dominated by nationals. Official figures recently revealed that there was a 25 percent increase in the number of jobs in the sector in the first quarter of 2019.

Last year, there were 330,000 nationals working in retail and wholesale business. This year, the number climbed up to 440,000 - and includes both Saudi men and women.

The figure for men working in private wholesale and retail stores remained the same as last year's (273,709) while that of women increased by 50,000 - reaching 166,135. 

The total number of employees in the kingdom's retail sector is now over 2 million, varying between nationals and expats. Despite efforts to Saudize the field, expats residing in the kingdom still make up more than half of that number (1,609,401 to be exact). 

Authorities continue efforts to Saudize the retail sector

In the past two years, Saudi Arabia has taken major steps to open up job opportunities for nationals. 

The country's Ministry of Labor and Social Development is still focused on Saudizing several industries in the kingdom, including retail. In a recent statement, its officials revealed they conducted more than 149,000 inspection tours on private sector establishments in the first quarter of 2019. Their aim was to ensure its Saudization rules were being applied with no violations. 

The ministry revealed that after 700 of its employees toured the premises they were assigned to, "the most important violations were expatriates taking jobs which were solely marked for Saudis."

Last year, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Labor and Social Development, Ali bin Nasser al-Ghafis, issued a decree limiting 12 retail jobs to Saudi nationals only. The decision came at a time when the kingdom was - and still is - focusing on reducing its reliance on foreign labor under Vision 2030

The kingdom has passed several orders under the 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.