Saudi Arabia has reduced the length of its employment visas for overseas workers in private sector organisations, from two years to one year.
The decision, announced by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD), will not apply to visas issued for foreign employees in government services or to domestic workers, according to Zawya.com.
It reported that the decision was made on the basis of Article 11 of the Labor Law, under which the minister can make changes that he deems necessary to improve the efficiency of the labour market.
According to Gulf Business, it is unclear whether the cost for visa issuance and renewal would remain the same, or be halved in line with the cut in duration. However, an increase is due in the work permit fee for foreign workers next year. It is expected to rise from SAR200 a month currently, to SAR300-400 by 2018, and SAR700-800 by 2020.
Last week, the Saudi Press Agency announced that only Saudi women will be able to run female clothing stores in the Kingdom, from 21 October, following the implementation of the third phase of a decision to “feminise” such outlets.
According to a Ministry of Labor spokesperson, this includes the retail of women’s perfume, shoes and bags, as well as department stores that sell women’s clothing and accessories.
It is also understood that foreign mothers of Saudi children and non-Saudi children of Saudi women will be able to work in roles previously only available to Saudi nationals, reported Zawya.com.
Saudi Arabia has been working to increase the employment of nationals, and to enable greater female participation in the labour market. A royal decree was issued last month which will give women the ability to apply for a driving licence, while other changes have been made to enable women to work in previously forbidden roles, such as air traffic control.
An MLSD report earlier this year showed a 130 per cent increase in the number of Saudi women in the labour market over the last four years – 30 per cent of the private sector in Saudi Arabia is now staffed by women.
The country’s original National Transformation Plan 2020 set out a number of targets related to employment, including the creation of 1.2 million private sector jobs and reducing unemployment from 11.6 per cent to 9 per cent by 2020. However, last month it was reported that some parts of the plan would be redrafted as targets were deemed too ambitious within the timescale.
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