Top KSA Hiring Trends in 2021

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been a preferred destination for employment opportunities due to its booming economy. Over the years, it has attracted attention due to its boom-and-bust cycles. However, some nations have been able to handle the situation better through proactive policies and astute foresight.

According to the findings of the Saudi Arabia Salary & Employment Report of 2021, the Kingdom has emerged as one of the most economically resilient countries in the region. The report further states that more than half employers and employees in KSA expect salaries to increase in 2021. 

According to data compiled by Argaam, a leading financial reporting portal in the Arab region, there was an upward trend in the employment rate among Saudis between the second and third quarter of 2020. Furthermore, as per the data released by the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, the unemployment rate for males and females during 2020 stood at 7.9 percent and 30.2 percent, respectively. This is expected to continue in 2021.

On the face of it, the hiring trends for the UAE and KSA appear broadly similar. However, on closer analysis, there are some important differences. Such as the confidence levels of the employers and the employees in the Kingdom to bounce back from the pandemic. This has resulted in the massive investment programme by the government to deliver the Vision 2030. Furthermore, there has been a substantial increase in the hiring of both expats and Saudi nationals on all mega projects.

In light of the above, the key hiring trends in KSA for 2021 are:

Priority on local employment

Increasing the share of nationals in the private sector jobs has been one of the top priorities of the KSA government in recent times.  According to reports, this trend is expected to continue as the government continues to take additional measures which will prefer nationals over expats.

The report goes on to say that the expected spike in the Saudi employment rate during the Q4 will coincide with improvement in a number of crucial economic indicators. It is predicted that the pace of job substitution in favor of Saudi nationals will continue, particularly with more employment opportunities in the wholesale and retail sectors. Hiring trends are also expected to pick up in the accommodation and food services sector.

Another factor that played a part in the positive growth of the labor market during the third quarter was the lifting of most lockdown restrictions. There was a vacuum created in the market as some expats had to leave due to the lockdown situation. These resulted in new jobs being created for the locals. The Jadwa report stated this as one of the main reasons for the non-utilization of a large number of expat work visas.

Spike in employment rate

According to the latest findings of a study conducted by Jadwa Investment, there is an expected increase in the employment rate in Saudi Arabia in 2021. The report further cites the rise in the number of people receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as one of the main reasons for the acceleration in the economic recovery. Furthermore, the hiring trend for Saudi nationals during the third quarter of 2020 was due to the measures put in place by the employment support program. One such example of this was the SANED scheme which is an insurance program designed specifically to aid Saudi workers and their families. The scheme provides financial support during a period of unemployment for reasons beyond their control.

Another area which will see a rise in the future is the seasonal sector relating to the tourism and entertainment sector. As more and more people get vaccinated, activities are expected to be rolled out which will result in further improvement in the hiring trends.

Better coverage for workers

The working conditions in Gulf countries has been an area of concern over the years. The Saudi government has been steadily looking to improve in this area. This trend is expected to continue in 2021 as KSA has launched various wage protection schemes and mechanisms to ensure that workers get paid on time and that their rights are not suppressed. 

Relaxation of sponsorship rules

On March 14th, 2021 significant changes to Saudi Arabia’s ‘kafala’ sponsorship came into force. These changes are focused on easing restrictions placed on foreign workers and are part of the KSA government’s Labor Reform Initiative (LRI). As a result of these initiatives, foreign workers in the private sector will no longer need to seek permission from their existing employers before changing their jobs and also for travelling into and out of the Kingdom.  

Generalists are in demand

With the rise in companies becoming more sleek and agile, there is more scrutiny for versatile employees. There is an increasing trend to seek people who can perform a wide range of duties as companies reorganize and remove redundancies. As a result, generalists and people who are able to merge duties, will be in more demand as opposed to specialists. 

Skilled workers are still sought after

Lack of skilled local workforce continues to be the problem for KSA. More than 90% of companies have forecasted a shortage of skilled workers in 2020. That number is expected to remain the same in 2021 as companies try to keep their existing skilled workers happy and attract recruits through handsome incentives and policies.

To sum up, the future looks bright for people looking to work and live in the KSA. Now that vaccinations are being rolled out, the worst seems to be behind as the economy has started picking up. This sentiment has been echoed in a recent survey that says that more than 67% of KSA employers expect their companies to bounce back in 2021.

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