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Big blow to Indians: Saudi Arabia may ban foreigners from hospitality jobs

As Saudi Arabia tries to develop its fledgling tourism industry, its also tackling citizen unemployment, which hit a high of nearly 13% last year

Saudi Arabia
Riyadh skyline at night. Photo: Shutterstock

Saudi Arabia plans to restrict certain hospitality jobs to its own citizens by the end of the year, banning the recruitment of foreign workers for those positions.
 
The decision, announced in a Labour Ministry statement on Friday, will apply to resorts, hotels rated three stars or higher, and hotel apartments rated four stars or higher. Positions that must be filled by Saudis range from front-desk jobs to management. Among the exceptions are drivers, doormen and porters, the ministry said in the statement. Other jobs that will be restricted to nationals include restaurant host and health club supervisor.
 
As Saudi Arabia tries to develop its fledgling tourism industry, its also tackling citizen unemployment, which hit a high of nearly 13 percent last year. Hospitality is the latest sector to face stricter Saudization policies, which call for replacing the foreigners who dominate many parts of the private sector -- particularly blue collar and service jobs.
 
Officials say such policies are necessary to create jobs for Saudis in a country that’s relied heavily on cheaper foreign labour. However, some businesses complain that Saudization increases the cost of hiring and lowers productivity.
 
The decision will be enforced from an Islamic calendar date likely to correspond with December 29. Many hotels had already begun hiring Saudis to fill front-desk jobs in recent years, part of a gradual cultural shift as Saudis begin to take up jobs that once would have been considered undesirable.