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The Socio-Political Background and Stakes of ‘Saudizing’ the Workforce in Saudi Arabia: the Nitaqat Policy

  • Françoise De Bel-Air
Publisher: Gulf Research Center
Date of Publication: Feb 2015
Publications Categories: Research Papers & Analysis


The paper addresses the historical and institutional background of labour management policies in Saudi Arabia. It envisages it as a long-term, structural impediment to the successful and rapid implementation of Saudization (localisation) of the labour force in the Kingdom. The paper thus emphasises the socio-political stakes and challenges to localisation of the labour force and, more generally, economic and labour reform in the Gulf States. Since the onset of the Arab uprisings, however, unemployment among Saudis, and especially women, has become a burning political issue. Governmental actors had no choice but to attempt to regain control over the economy and the management of the labour market. In September 2011, in spite of a spurt in foreign labour recruitment since the mid-2000s, a voluntary policy called “Nitaqat” aiming to “Saudize” the Kingdom’s workforce was enacted. This paper reviews its characteristics and points to its all-encompassing design as it addresses the socio-political context of Saudization and therefore is more likely to have a lasting effect than previous workforce localisation initiatives.

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