Saudi customer service centres must employ citizens: HR Ministry

All client-facing roles over the phone, email, social media and other ‘modern means’ to be reserved for Saudi citizens, ministerial decree says.

A Saudi woman works inside the first all-female call centre in the kingdom's security sector, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia [File: Suhaib Salem/Reuters]

Saudi Arabia will reserve customer service centre jobs for Saudi citizens to “offer greater opportunities” and “improve their income potential”, officials said, as the oil exporter battles economic headwinds.

The kingdom, the Arab world’s economic powerhouse, has increasingly sought to employ its nationals over migrant workers, a trend that has grown across Gulf monarchies since a 2014 oil price plunge.

“Jobs in remote customer service roles will from now on be reserved for Saudis,” the Human Resources and Social Development Ministry announced in a statement on Monday.

“This decision is intended to create job opportunities for Saudis, help them improve their income levels and support the Saudi economy.”

Ahmed Alrajhi, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, said on Twitter that the decision was part of the country’s Saudisation plan.

“An extension of the ministry’s endeavors to expand Saudisation, with the aim of enabling the nation’s sons and daughters to have job opportunities; We issued a decision restricting work in the professions and jobs of remote customer service to Saudi men and women, whether through direct or indirect contracting,” Alrajhi’s tweet said.

The edict will apply to all client-facing roles that use telephone contact, email, social media and other “modern means”, the ministerial decree said.

A Saudi woman works inside the first all-female call centre in the kingdom’s security sector, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia [File: Suhaib Salem/Reuters]

Double economic hit

Unemployment in Saudi Arabia reached 14.9 percent in the third quarter of 2020, approaching the record 15.4 percent jobless rate recorded a year earlier, according to official data.

Some 60 percent of unemployed Saudis are aged between 20 and 29.

The statistics authority attributed the unemployment figures to the coronavirus pandemic, which “continues to affect the Saudi job market and its economy”.

The world’s leading exporter of crude oil has faced a double hit from the global health crisis and the collapse in oil prices on the international market.

Last week, de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the Saudi Public Investment Fund would invest $40bn in economic stimulus annually over the next five years, as the kingdom combats soaring unemployment.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies