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Saudi Arabia is to begin licensing expat labour companies next month, in what is seen as a decisive move to transform its existing foreign worker licensing laws.
According to Mufarrej Al-Haqbani, Saudi Arabia's deputy labour minister, the change towards licensing – away from the established sponsorship system – will see the government take control over issuing visas to foreign workers.
At present, this falls under the responsibility of labour companies, which sponsor workers directly. This arrangement has been criticised because the government believes it gives them too much power.
The new strategy will allow Saudi Arabian officials to better monitor the movement of foreign workers in the gulf state, who account for 90 per cent of its workforce.
With this in mind, top Saudis are calling for more to be done to readdress the unequal balance, so that its own citizens can compete for more jobs.
"In the short term, the focus is on increasing jobs for nationals by substituting a part of eight million expatriate jobs in the kingdom," Mr Al-Haqbani said.