Expats concerned about losing their jobs in Saudi Arabia to retrained nationals need not worry too much as the man tasked with training the nation reckons the project will take around 40 years to complete.
Saudi Arabia is home to around 8 million expats – ranging from domestic workers to chief executives.
The government wants to make the country self-sufficient for labour with a huge training program.
But Ali Bin Nasser Al-Ghafis, the man heading up the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), has announced he expects the program to last 40 years.
The TVTC is discussing qualifications and training with 25 leading educational institutions and hopes to enrol the first 250,000 Saudis for retraining in September.
Saudi Arabia is one of several Gulf Cooperation Council states trying to reduce reliance on expat workers in favour of nationals.
In 2011, labour rules (Nitaqat) that punish businesses for hiring too many expats were introduced. The rules can lead to fines and hiring restrictions.
Meanwhile, Kuwait is another GCC state taking action against the number of expat workers employed in the state as well.
The Ministry of Social affairs and Labour is discussing quotas for expats – by nationality and fixed stays of residence.
The idea is the importance of an expat’s job will govern their length of stay.
The ministry is suggesting unskilled labour can have a five year visa, intermediate technical staff a seven year visa and expert technical staff a 10 year stay.
The number of unskilled workers may be capped.
Friction with companies
The ministry has put the proposals to other government departments for consultation and expects to meet again to discuss the responses within a month.
The ministry is also falling foul of friction between employers and foreign workers. Companies are complaining about ministry workers who are perceived to support the rights of foreign workers over Kuwaiti companies.
An outcry over imposing VAT and lifting utility concessions to make the cost of living more affordable for expats is also seen as more Kuwaiti hostility towards foreigners, who make up around 90% of the population.
Of course, the moves by governments in the Gulf are not attacks on expats, but more moves to quell dissatisfaction against an educated and unemployed body of youths who could start Arab Spring-style uprisings if they feel their governments are failing to represent their interests.