More than 1.9 million expatriates have left Saudi Arabia since the start of 2017, according to a report released yesterday. A further 132,000 are estimated to have left the labour market during 2Q 2019.
The labour market report, published by Riyadh-based Jadwa Investments, reveals a 22% drop in the number foreigners working in Saudi Arabia over the past two years. Foreigners make up around a third of the total Saudi population of 33 million, and continue to play a vital role in the kingdom's economy.
The data showed that the total number of expats in the Saudi labor market declined by around 1.9 million since the start of 2017, with around 132 thousand workers leaving the market during Q2 2019.
Overall unemployment in the kingdom fell to 12.3%, a slight decrease from 12.5% in the 1Q 2019. The Saudi economy has struggled in recent years to cope with a persistently low oil price. The economy contracted by 0.7% in 2017, before growing again at a modest 2.3% in 2018.
In 2017, the government in Riyadh introduced a monthly fee on dependants of expatriates starting at 100 riyals ($26.7) and rising to 400 riyals ($107) per dependant by next year.
In addition, and as part of a wider effort to increase the proportion of Saudi nationals in the workplace, authorities now force companies that employ more foreigners than nationals to pay a fee of around 400 riyals per worker, rising to 800 riyals by the end of this year.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is hoping to wean the country of a long-standing dependence on hydrocarbons, and expand the Saudi private sector. Earier this year, his government introduced a permanent residency programme designed to attract foreign investment to the Kingdom at a price of $213,000 per application.
The full report from Jadwa Investments is available to read here.