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Saudi Arabia steps up Saudisation job drive

Saudi Arabia's minister of human resources Ahmad bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi. The sector is the latest to be targeted in the kingdom's Saudisation drive SPA
Saudi Arabia's minister of human resources Ahmad bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi. The sector is the latest to be targeted in the kingdom's Saudisation drive
  • HR roles for Saudis only says ministry
  • Rules tightened for consultancy sector
  • New targets for aviation and dentistry

Saudi Arabia’s government said this week that jobs in human resources (HR) in the kingdom are now restricted to Saudi nationals only.

It is another step in the country’s plan to localise skilled jobs and reduce unemployment. 

The ministry of human resources made the statement on social media site X, formerly Twitter, in response to a question from a Saudi Arabian user called Ghimah about a non-Saudi HR manager who interviewed her for a job in a private hospital.  



The ministry account replied: “Human resource jobs are among those that are restricted to Saudis. You can submit a complaint about violations of the labour law via the ministry’s app.” 

The ministry has steadily moved through a host of skilled professions since 2018, imposing new rules requiring the hiring of Saudi nationals. 

In 2018 fines were imposed starting from SAR20,000 ($5,333) for hiring foreigners in positions reserved for nationals and from SAR10,000 for hiring men in jobs reserved for women. 

On March 25, the same day as Ghimah’s query, the ministry said on X that Saudi nationals must occupy 40 percent of consultancy sector jobs in any company, after initially mandating 35 percent in April 2023. It specified consultancy in the financial, engineering, cybersecurity and health services. 

The ministry said on March 11 it was rolling out a plan to start localising dentistry jobs. 

On March 4 it said new targets were being implemented in the aviation sector of 60 percent of flight attendants and 70 percent of fixed-wing pilots being Saudi nationals. 

Reducing unemployment among Saudi men and women is one of the prime goals of the massive socioeconomic transformation plan introduced in 2016. 

But the strategy still requires a huge skilled and unskilled labour pool of expatriates. The last census in 2022 found Saudis formed 58 percent of a total 32 million population. 

The latest figures suggest the government is gradually getting results. 

Unemployment among Saudi nationals fell to 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023, from 8 percent during the same period in 2022, the General Authority for Statistics said this week in its latest published survey. 

Saudisation has found work for some 500,000 Saudis since 2019, said Scott Cairns, Dubai-based managing director of Creation Business Consultants. The government grades companies on their adherence, which can affect their access to contracts. 

“Many foreign companies have at some stage had some difficulties with hiring suitably skilled employees when a position is earmarked as Saudi only,” he said. 

But with the new generation of Saudis, “the chance to recruit and train up bright new talent is quite appealing to most companies”.

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