Saudi Arabia loses 250,000 expat workers in three months
Saudi Arabia's labour market lost more than a quarter of a million foreign workers due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Saudi General Authority for Statistics revealed.
The number of foreign workers decreased by around 257,200 workers compared to the second quarter of 2020, the statistics showed.
The total number of foreign workers stood at 10,459,032 in the second quarter of last year. In the following quarter, this decreased to 10,201,862.
Meanwhile, the statistics showed some an increase in Saudi employment with 81,900 entering the workforce during the third quarter of 2020, compared to the previous quarter.
The total number of employed Saudi nationals now stands at 3.25 million.
The official numbers also confirmed 2.4 percent of business owners were forced to liquidate companies due to a lack of profits.
The statistics come as Saudi Arabia continues to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far infected 366,371 and killed 6,352. However, the kingdom - home to some 34 million people - has also reported a high recovery rate.
In December, the kingdom kicked off its three-phase vaccination programme after receiving the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The health ministry said the programme would roll out in three phases, starting with people over 65 and those with chronic ailments or at high risk of infection.
People over 50 would be vaccinated next, with everyone else included in the third stage, the ministry said, adding that the vaccine would be free for citizens and residents.
In October, reports said Saudi Arabia could soon abolish its controversial "kafala" sponsorship system and replace it with a work contracts, after widespread criticism from human rights groups that it leaves foreign workers open to exploitation.
Saudi financial newspaper Maaal reported the new system will rely on contracts between employees and employers, citing unnamed sources.
The Saudi ministry of human resources and labour development said it is currently working on a number of reform initiatives to "develop the labour market" and will be announced "when ready".
"The ministry calls on everyone to obtain information from official sources," it said in a tweet.
As of yet, no official announcement has been made.