Saudi Arabia will not renew the work permits of foreign workers who have spent six years in the country as part of its plan to create jobs for nationals, its labour minister was quoted as saying on Monday. "The current situation calls for strong cooperation between the government and private sector in solving the problem of unemployment with hundreds of thousands looking for work," Adil Fakieh was quoted as saying by the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat. Fakieh did not say when the decision would be implemented or whether it would be applied to all foreign workers or to specific jobs.
Unemployment among nationals in the kingdom, which sits on more than a fifth of global oil reserves and is the world's biggest oil exporter, is currently 10.5 percent, he said, adding that 28 percent of the unemployed were women and 40 percent high school graduates.
Fakieh said there were currently eight million foreign workers in the kingdom of whom six million work in the private sector. Remittances from foreign workers total 100 billion riyals ($27 billion) a year, he said.
Saudi Arabia does not regularly publish data on unemployment, a sensitive issue since it highlights fissures in wealth distribution in the absolute monarchy with no elected parliament, where newspapers tend to carry the official line.
King Abdullah offered Saudis $93 billion in handouts in March to stave off unrest of the kind rocking other parts of the Arab world. This followed a $37 billion package announced in February in an initial move to ease social tensions.