Saudi labour reforms to come into force
Saudi Arabia’s much-awaited reforms will officially come into force on 14 March 2021. The reforms will – on paper at least – ease some workers’ ability to transfer jobs and no longer require employers' permission to leave the country. For decades, these restrictions have been used by employers to exploit and abuse migrant workers in the Kingdom.
While this is a step in the right direction, there are few things to keep in mind:
- The reforms will only apply to around 6.7 million migrant workers who fall under the jurisdiction of the labour law. Around 3.6 million domestic workers, farmers, shepherds, home guards, and private drivers – who are already among the most vulnerable and least protected segment of the workforce – are excluded. So are an estimated 3.5 to 4.4 million undocumented workers living in the Kingdom.
- The initiative does not grant workers complete mobility; workers can only transfer sponsorship without the consent of the sponsor after completing one year of contract or upon the expiry of the work contract. It is important to ensure that mobility procedures are simple and accessible to all workers, as time and time again we’ve seen how similar mobility reforms fail to account for migrant workers’ ability to navigate administrative procedures.