The Saudi daily al-Watan said the massive retrenchment of the white-collar foreign workers was part of the ‘Saudisation’ programme to reduce unemployment.

The lay-offs would include 16,204 employees from the public education sector, 854 from the private education and 42 from the defence ministry.

The posts would be advertised for Saudis within days.

On losing their jobs, the foreign workers would lose their right of residence in Saudi Arabia and will have to leave the country within a month.

Alarmed by a rising unemployment rate that currently stands at 12 percent, the Saudi government has been trying to boost employment opportunities for its own nationals in the recent past.

Foreigners make up over half of its national workforce at the moment. There are around six million expatriates in the kingdom.

Analysts said oil revenues were increasingly unable to meet the needs of more than 17 million Saudis.