All but the most highly-qualified foreign workers are facing a major work and lifestyle change in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom heads towards an expat-free future.
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Changes at the top after the recent installation of a new king seem to have quickened the process of giving jobs to Saudis rather than expats.
The aim is a speedy transition from reliance on expats to employing as many Saudis as possible.
This proposal is destined to become a reality as 12 million Saudis seek work and a huge number of younger and skilled men and women join the queue for jobs.
Saudi Arabia has a population of 27 million. Around 9 million are expat workers and the rest Saudis, but the government wants many jobless nationals to take on the post currently filled by expats.
Illegal immigrant blitz
The only ‘safe’ jobs for expats are those that require specialist talent or qualifications.
Saudi Arabia has blitzed illegal immigrants for the past two or three years.
In 2013, an amnesty on illegal workers allowed 4 million mostly Asians to leave the country without penalty or prosecution.
In 2015, police have deported 10,000 illegal workers and new laws have added an offence of harbouring or facilitating foreign workers who do not have the correct visas.
The new king, Salman, has already made speeches in favour Saudis taking more jobs help by expats, while the government is encouraging young Saudis to take degree courses at universities around the world to gain the skills they need to keep the economy running.
Two new systems have been set up to match Saudis to job vacancies – Doroob and Musaned – while politicians are debating to curtail work visas with a maximum eight year limit and no renewals.
Kuwait needs more water
Minimising the reliance on expats in the workforce is not the only problem for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.
In Kuwait, the government is tackling a desperate challenge to provide enough fresh drinking water for the population.
The international water poverty line set by the United Nations is 500 cubic metres a person a year, but the estimate for Kuwait is a supply of just 70 cubic metres a person a year.
To meet demand, the government has built state-of-the-art desalination and recycling plants that will deliver 520 million gallons of water a year – and plans to increase the provision to 900 million gallons by 2022.
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