Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—A senior official at the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) has informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the construction sector in the kingdom is set to face a crisis in the coming weeks. He said the sector will face a severe labor shortage when the three-month grace period for foreign workers to rectify their visa status expires on July 4.
The crisis is expected to worsen due to the high temperatures in the summer. Construction companies in Saudi Arabia reduce working hours during the hot summer months to avoid exposing their workers to the dangers of sunstroke.
Fahd Al-Hamadi, president of the CSC National Construction Committee, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I hope the grace period will be extended by another three months, especially for construction companies. These companies are large and they have a large number of employees, and the time allotted may not be sufficient for them to rectify the status of their employees.”
Hamadi said the shortage of labor will cause a rise in cost to the construction companies, which in turn will increase the cost of contracts to the government.
The Saudi construction sector suffers from lack of organization, which means it is difficult to monitor the companies’ adherence to set summer working hours, which run from 5 am until noon and then from 5 pm until 7 pm. The construction sector is one of the most profitable industrial sectors in Saudi Arabia, with 99.4% of construction companies in the kingdom posting profits in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Relevant Saudi authorities have rejected requests by a number of embassies, government departments and private institutions to extend the three-month grace period.
Foreign workers have also made attempts to forge documents and make false applications in the Mecca region, according to Brig. Gen. Hussein bin Yahya Al-Harithi, head of Mecca’s passport office.
A senior source informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “a request to extend the deadline was made a week ago but was rejected by the Saudi government, who emphasized that all government departments responsible for this issue must adhere to the deadline.”
Hattab Al-Anazi, spokesman for the Saudi Labor Ministry, told Asharq Al-Awsat that work is underway to remedy the situation in the Saudi labor market, and that the labor ministry and other government departments are committed to the deadline.
Anazi said he did not expect the deadline to be extended because it was set by the king. He added that the relevant authorities will impose the penalties stipulated in the decree once the deadline has expired.