More than 83,000 illegal workers in Saudi apply for amnesty
By Courtney Trenwith, Sunday, 12 May 2013 10:21 AM
More than 83,000 illegal workers in Saudi Arabia have registered for amnesty in the past month during the kingdom’s grace period before tough Saudisation penalties come into effect, according to local daily Arab News.
The majority of the expats had sought a free flight home, while others had applied for permission to stay in the kingdom.
According to embassy and consulate staff, the illegal workers seeking amnesty include 60,000 Indians, 10,000 Filipinos, 7,000 Sri Lankans and 6,000 Pakistanis.
Ministry of Labour staff have been ordered to work evenings and Thursdays – a weekend day – to help cope with the influx of applications.
Employers, particularly those in the construction industry, are reportedly keen to take on those who are given permission to stay. The oil-rich country is undergoing a huge building programme which requires thousands of labourers.
Under the kingdom’s Saudisation programme, quotas have been issued requiring private companies to hire nationals in a bid to reduce unemployment among locals amid a booming population, particularly among youth.
Only about 11 percent of workers in the private sector are nationals, compared to more than 90 percent of the public sector.
Since November last year, each foreign employee above the number of nationals has attracted a levy of SR2,400.
A report by Saudi investment company NCB Capital and released earlier this month found the levy would cost employers SR15bn ($3.9bn) this year, causing short-term pressure on margins.