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Saudi Arabia to restrict shopping mall jobs to its own nationals

Image of a shopping mall in Riyadh, Saudi on 12 November 2010 [PROCitizen59/Flickr]
Image of a shopping mall in Riyadh, Saudi on 12 November 2010 [PROCitizen59/Flickr]

Saudi Arabia is planning to limit the jobs available in shopping malls exclusively to Saudi nationals, who currently make up a minority in the retail sector’s labour force compared to migrant workers.

The decision ordered today by the labour ministry comes amidst recent claims that the Kingdom’s private sector has dismissed 50,000 Saudi workers and has hired around 172,000 foreign employees over the past year.

Read more: Saudi Council member says 50,000 Saudis lost their jobs in past 9 months

Saudi Arabia has been keen on combating what many Saudi nationals deem to be private sector exploitation by hiring often cheaper migrant workers rather than citizens. The order by the labour ministry could be the first step in forcing the labour market to source local talent.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been gradually limiting the areas of work and jobs that expats can be employed by, as part of the Kingdom’s “Vision 2030” economic reform plan to ease it off its reliance on profits from oil exports.


The amount of jobs affected and a specific time for implementation have not yet been revealed, but plans have been detailed for a million new jobs for Saudis in the retail sector by 2020.

Currently, only 300,000 of the retail sector’s 1.5 million workers are Saudi nationals while the rest are economic migrants. The Kingdom is also facing a youth unemployment crisis, with a quarter of Saudis under the age of 30 currently unemployed.

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