Nitaqat to enforce minimum salaries for citizens

Updated 28 December 2012
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Nitaqat to enforce minimum salaries for citizens

Saudi employees in the private sector receiving salaries of SR 1,500 are viewed as “half workers” in their companies’ Saudization records in the Nitaqat system, while Saudis receiving less than that amount are not included at all when calculating their firms’ Saudization percentage, said Minister of Labor Adel Fakeih at a press conference in Riyadh yesterday.
The minister said the Cabinet’s decision to regulate the calculation of monthly wages will be implemented by Feb. 2, 2013 and will be aimed at improving work environment and tackling the issue of low wages. It will stipulate a minimum wage of SR 3,000 for Saudis and specify conditions for calculating Saudization quotas.
According to the decision, only Saudis who receive the minimum wage are included as one Saudi worker in a firm’s Saudization record under Nitaqat. The way to calculate the Saudization quota in the case of having Saudi workers receiving less than the minimum wage will be specified when the decision is implemented.
The decision will benefit those working on a part-time basis, students, those with disabilities who are able to work and released prisoners, said the minister, adding that the ministerial decision was announced three months ago, which gave establishments a period of five months to take the necessary measures.
According to a ministry statement to SPA, the Wage Protection Program will be implemented gradually by March 1, 2013. The ministry will enforce the program by requiring companies to file their employees’ wage data. Firms that delay the filing of their wages data for two months will be subject to sanctions that include denying them all of the ministry’s services except for work licenses service. If the delay was for more than 3 months, with the continuation of blocking the ministry services, the late companies’ workers will be allowed to transfer their services to other employers without their approval.
The ministry said the decision will be implemented according to the following schedule: Firms with 3,000 workers or more will be required to file the data by June 1, companies with 2,000 workers or more will be required to do so by Sept. 2, establishments with 1,000 workers or more will be required to file their wages data by Dec. 3. Those with 500 workers or more, 200 workers or more and 100 workers or more will be obliged to file their data by March 4, 2014, July 5, 2014 and Oct. 6, 2014, respectively.
On Sunday, the minister said the decision to impose a monthly SR 200 fee for each foreign worker includes only firms employing more foreigners than Saudis. (If a company’s number of foreign workers exceeds the number of Saudis then they will be included in the decision. Even with companies having more foreigners than Saudis the fees are only imposed on the excess number of workers. Others who have more Saudis than foreigners will not be included in the new fees decision.)
He said that after the fees decision, another one increasing government support for Saudis’ salaries in the private sector from SR 2,000 to SR 4,000 (amounts the government pays as part of each Saudi employee’s salary in private companies) will follow. The support period will be also extended from two to four years, he said.
The minister spoke in a meeting with the public in a Jeddah hotel after he did the same in Riyadh about two weeks ago.
He said that about 11 percent of small establishments in the country are thought to be involved in visa trafficking, and that 31 percent of them (small establishments in the country) cover up illegal labor (Tasattur, cover up businesses).
There are countries where a foreign worker has to pay SR 20,000 annually to be allowed to work in the country, he said as he commented on the new labor fees. The new fees’ revenues would cover the expenses of Hafez unemployment program by 2015. Foreign labor in the Kingdom cost the country SR 23 billion annually, six times the amount disbursed for the training of Saudis, he said.
The minister said the fees decision would only marginally affect the purchasing power. "Traders' talks of 'damage' to the economy and 'price hikes' is only an exaggeration,” he said, stressing that members of society have to collaborate with the authorities to combat unemployment and price hikes.
“The meeting was open and public interest was the theme of it. The minister explained the new fee decision, then allowed discussions and took questions. He did not use the meeting to impose his view,” said one of the attendees.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”