RIYADH, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia on Sunday began an initiative to improve contractual relationships to give foreign employees greater flexibility in their relationship with employers.

The reform effectively did away with the Kafala system, a common tool in Gulf countries for employers to monitor migrant laborers.

Last November, the Saudi Human Resources and Social Development Ministry announced a decision to improve the contractual relationship between workers and employers through a number of policies, including abolishing the Kafala system.

The decision was scheduled to enter into force this Sunday.

The Saudi initiative allows foreign employees to exit, return, and move from one job to another without the need for employers’ approval.

The initiative defines the mechanisms of transition during the duration of the contract, provided that the notice period and the specified controls are adhered to.

The initiative encompasses all expatriate workers in the private sector under specific conditions that take into account the rights of both the employer and the employee.

Official estimates show that the unemployment rate among Saudis during the third quarter of 2020 reached 14.9%.

According to the Labor Ministry, the oil-rich kingdom seeks to enhance its private sector and make it more competitive internationally and attract foreign talent.

The initiative also seeks to reduce the disparity in contractual procedures between Saudi and expatriate workers by boosting employment opportunities for citizens in the labor market.

*Ibrahim Mukhtar in Ankara contributed to this report

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