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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Saudi clamps down on foreigners
Saudi market trader
Foreigners are already barred from some jobs
Saudi Arabia is trying to cope with rapidly-increasing unemployment by banning foreigners from working in some jobs.

As many as 120,000 young people are eligible to join the workforce each year, but nearly half of them cannot find jobs.

In a circular issued on Tuesday, social affairs and labour minister Ali Al-Namlah told labour offices up and down the country that 22 sectors were to be reserved for Saudi nationals.

The list of jobs covered by the ruling includes administrative and procurement managers, secretaries, car salesmen and public relations staff.

Foreigners will also be barred from staffing the offices which serve pilgrims making the Hajj, the trip to Mecca that all Muslims are meant to make at least once during their lives.

Corner shops

This is not the first spark of so-called "Saudization" because foreigners are already banned from working in 13 sectors.

Last year, for example, foreigners under 40 were banned from working in jewellery shops, the first step to what the government said it hoped would be full Saudization within two years.

Another initiative barred corner shops from employing outsiders, and businesses with more than 20 staff must ensure that at least 30% are Saudis.

Disaffection

The problem is not simply an economic one.

The high unemployment rate is breeding disaffection among young Saudis, who contrast the opulent lifestyles of the thousands of princes in the ruling House of Saud with their own situation.

The result is soaring support for the more fundamentalist branches of Islam.

Most of the hijackers who killed thousands in New York and Washington DC on 11 September last year were Saudi nationals.

But the knock-on effect of the new policies could have other consequences.

Millions of foreigners work in the kingdom - not only the high-profile expatriates in the oil industry, but an army of poorly paid migrant workers from across the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

Their home economies could face serious damage if the sums they send home are cut off.

See also:

24 May 02 | Business
11 May 02 | Middle East
11 Feb 02 | Business
22 Jan 02 | Business
09 Dec 01 | Middle East
16 May 02 | Country profiles
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