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Saudi move to hit 25 other sectors

By Biju Govind

KOZHIKODE, MARCH 10. The new `Saudisation' programme will be extended to nearly 25 other economic activities, including retail business apart from the travel and tourism industry, transportation sector and gold market, in Saudi Arabia.

This will render lakhs of unskilled Indian labourers jobless especially from North Kerala employed in the areas of ready-made garments, toys, furniture, electrical, household appliances, car showrooms, auto spare parts and construction materials shops.

Shops dealing in mobile phones, bookstores and stationery, footwear, perfumes, car decoration, paints, tailoring materials and frozen chicken will come under the Saudisation programme.

According to travel industry sources, the `Saudisation' programme, which began on February 21, is now being implemented in the travel, gold and transportation business. At present, the authorities are inspecting only the travel agencies and jewellery shops spread across the kingdom to check whether the work force in these private sector establishments are 35 per cent Saudis.

"But, plans are on to step up the raids in all the other 25 sectors.

However, the sad part of the enforcement of the Royal decree is that the authorities have started detaining the foreign workers after conducting raids at the offices.

Several expatriate workers had been detained and had their heads shaved despite the public protests.

Many of the employers have also sought the intervention of the rulers," sources said.

Many felt that the authorities should have arrested the employers who are violating the regulations.

At the same time, the foreign embassies, including the Indian and the Norka Department in Kerala, were yet to take up the issue with the Saudi officials. Neither had they taken any attempt to rehabilitate the labourers, sources said.

About 85 per cent of the workforce in the 2,800 travel agencies in the kingdom was represented by Indians, including Keralites.

In the immediate future, at least 1.5 lakh people will have to return to their homeland, travel agents said.

Another interesting fact is that most of the manpower recruiting companies in India still recruited employees in these sectors even as the `Saudisation' programme is being implemented.

But, so far the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has not stopped processing of work visas for even small businesses as part of the `Saudisation' drive, recruiting agents said.

As part of the Saudisation programme in the 25 economic activities, the employers have to adhere to the labour policy in a phased manner.

In the first year, each retail store should appoint at least one Saudi, the second year Saudis should constitute 50 per cent of employees and in the third year 100 per cent.

All the business establishments in these 25 sectors must be completely `Saudised' by the third year.

The new programme has been drawn up because of the steady rise in the unemployment rate of the Saudis. Saudi Arabia has planned to generate 23 lakh jobs for Saudi citizens in the next 20 years.

This will be done mainly by phasing out about 10 lakh out of a total of 70 lakh foreigners in the next 10 years.

It has been decided to limit the number of foreign workers and their families to less than 20 per cent of the Saudi population by 2013.

By replacing foreigners, 8,00,000 new jobs would be created for Saudis, sources said.

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