RIYADH, 6 October — Authorities have re-imposed a ban on foreigners under 40
years of age working in thousands of jewelry shops in the Kingdom, a newspaper
The decision, taken by Interior Minister and Chairman of the Manpower Council
Prince Naif, aims at creating more jobs for Saudi nationals, Al-Watan said.
The move comes just a few months after a decision which ordered all jewelry
shops to employ only Saudis, which was later postponed because of a lack of
trained national manpower.
Violators of the new regulations have been threatened with hefty financial
fines and deportation if they are foreign.
Authorities originally issued the directive banning foreigners under 40 from
jewelry jobs more than a year ago, ahead of imposing a total ban on expatriate
workers in the sector.
According to the earlier ruling that came into effect on July 22, only Saudis
were allowed to work in the gold and jewelry shops in the Kingdom. The move was
aimed at providing 20,000 new jobs to Saudis in the first stage.
A number of gold and jewelry shops closed down because they did not meet the
Saudization conditions, but have since reopened after authorities relaxed the
law and allowed only a gradual Saudization of jobs in the market.
The new decision set the legally required percentage of Saudi employees in
jewelry shops and factories at not less than 30 percent, to be increased to 50
percent next year and 100 percent the year after.
Traders welcomed the new decision, saying it will encourage businessmen to
train and employ more Saudis and achieve the target of full Saudization of jobs
in the sector before the grace period ends.
Some Saudis have complained that gold market employers are offering smaller
salaries since the issuance of the new law.
“This is why Saudis aren’t interested in working in jewelry shops,” one said.
Chambers of commerce in various parts of the Kingdom are now offering courses
to train Saudis for various jobs in the gold sector. The first batch of Saudi
trainees at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry joined the job market
recently. The chamber is planning to train more than 3,000 young Saudis over the
There are more than 15 jewelry factories and 700 workshops in Saudi Arabia,
in addition to thousands of shops. The size of the market is estimated at more
than SR4 billion.
The government has launched a campaign to reduce the number of expatriates in
the Kingdom, estimated at around seven million, in order to counter unemployment
among Saudi men, which the Saudi American Bank predicts will rise to 15 percent
this year. Half of the country’s population of 22 million is below the age of
Two laws came into effect last month ordering corner shops to employ only
Saudis and private businesses employing more than 20 people to increase the
number of Saudi nationals to 30 percent of the workforce.