JEDDAH: The Labor Ministry has announced that it would conduct a study to determine the viability of having a 2-day weekend and a 40-hour work week for the private sector.
In a post on its Twitter account recently, the ministry stated that it would take into account the input of business owners, and look at the advantages and disadvantages of introducing the measures, including whether it would attract Saudi youth to the private sector.
Sources quoted in the media have suggested that most private companies would introduce the 2-day weekend only if the ministry removes the SR2,400 levy and institutes a 48-hour working week.
According to reports, the authorities face a dilemma as they try to boost private sector employment in a period of low oil prices, which are straining state finances and threatening to slow the economy.
Most Saudi workers are in the public sector, which offers generous conditions such as a 35-hour work week plus big pensions and health benefits.
Most private sector jobs are held by 10 million foreign workers.
To reduce the burden on the public sector and curb the number of foreign workers, the government has been considering a proposal to lure more Saudi nationals into private companies by limiting the working week to 40 hours, down from 48 in many firms, including a two-day weekend.
But much of the business community has argued that the move would hurt the economy by raising companies’ costs, deterring investment and possibly forcing companies to make up for the shorter work week by hiring more foreigners.