More than 1.2 million expat workers are expected to leave Saudi Arabia over the course of 2020, according to figures published today by Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment Company.
The Ministry of the Interior also confirmed that an estimated 300,000 expats have left the Gulf kingdom so far this year, with 178,000 successful applications for Awdah, the government scheme to facilitate the departure of expat workers to their countries of origin during the covid-19 pandemic.
The Jadwa report said that 445,000 expat workers left Saudi Arabia's labour market in 2019.
However, overall unemployment in the country is expected to remain steady at around 12%. The government's SANED unemployment benefit scheme is paying out up to 60% of furloughed workers' salaries for three months, and this is likely to offset some of the expat exodus, the report said..
According to the report, there is "further scope for the SANED scheme to be extended for more than three months, if necessary. For example, a similar furlough scheme has been extended in the UK for an additional four months, until October 2020, even as the economy progressively opens up."
Several Gulf countries are looking to reduce their expat populations in favour of boosting nationals' employment in a widening of the private sector. Most recently, Kuwait's prime minister announced he is seeking to reduce Kuwait's expat numbers to 30% from its current 70% of the total populace.