Saudi expat recruitment: Now and then

Saudi Arabia began recruiting expatriate workers decades ago, a process that was expedited following the discovery of oil. Many experts and engineers arrived in the country to help extract and refine oil. Al-Riyadh daily reports on how the discovery of oil changed employment prospects for both Saudis and expatriates.

Prior to the discovery of oil, Saudis could be found working in virtually every field. As the Kingdom accumulated wealth, there was a dire need to recruit foreigners to work in labor-intensive jobs that Saudis had vacated to take up lucrative government jobs. To fill the dire shortage of labor, the recruitment process was streamlined so applicants would have their visas processed on the same day in exchange for a small fee.

Initially Saudis recruited expatriate workers because there was a genuine need for their services. Consequently, problems between employers and employees were rare. Later, people began to take advantage of the loopholes in the sponsorship system and started engaging in illegal practices such as Tasattur, which refers to an understanding whereby Saudis permit foreigners to manage businesses in their names in return for a stake in the profits.

Another problem is that many expatriate workers, especially domestic servants, tend to run away from their sponsors shortly after they arrive in the Kingdom in search of better-paying jobs. Such illegal practices continue to cause economic losses to the tune of hundreds of millions because sponsors are left paying expensive recruitment fees with no manpower guarantee. Expatriates who engage in Tasattur transfer the money they earn back to their country using illegal methods.

In the past, a Saudi who obtained a recruitment visa often went to the country of the expatriate worker he wanted to hire to meet and test his skills. Today, recruitment committees do this job but the government has tried to make it harder for skilled laborers to get visas without proving their educational qualifications first. Local dailies regularly report on expatriates such as doctors and engineers being arrested for using fake degrees to get jobs. People found guilty of using fake degrees typically serve time in jail before being deported and blacklisted from reentering the Kingdom.

Several specialized recruitment companies have emerged in the Saudi market in the past few years. Any Saudi who wishes to recruit an expatriate worker such as a driver or maid can turn to these companies for help. In fact, the companies even train domestic servants and prepare them for their jobs before they even arrive in the Kingdom. Some local recruitment companies even let people hire domestic help by the hour.

One of the biggest advantages of using this service is that the company compensates the Saudi employer financially if the expatriate worker runs away or refuses to do the job as agreed in the employment contract signed by the employer and the employee.

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