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Saudi nears two-day weekend for private sector

Shoura Council to issue an amended labour law

NEWS, Business, Private sector, Saudi Arabia, Working weekend

Authorities in Saudi Arabia are moving closer to introducing a two-day weekend for the private sector, which would bring the working week in line with the kingdom’s public sector employees.

According to English language Arab News, the kingdom’s legislative Shoura Council will imminently issue an amended labour law that will bring in a five-day working week for private sector staff.

“The Shoura is currently finalising amendments to 20 articles of the labour law to fix weekly working hours of employees in the private sector,” an anonymous source told the newspaper.

The move comes after authorities in the Gulf’s most populous country returned a study prepared by the council which requested the consultative council reduce private sector working hours from 48 to 40. Private sector employees in Saudi Arabia currently work a Saturday to Thursday week.

Arab News reported that the move to reduce working hours in the private sector was designed to tempt Saudi nationals away from public sector employment.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is in the midst of a major drive to push more of its citizens into private sector employment. According to government estimates, 12% of Saudis are currently unemployed, while nine-tenths of workers in the private sector are overseas workers.

In November last year, the Ministry of Labour introduced a controversial new policy that would see companies that employ more foreign staff than nationals fined SAR2,400 (US$640) per overseas employer, per year.
The move has drawn praise from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s richest businessman, but criticism from others, including the kingdom’s top Muslim cleric and the legislative Shoura Council.

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