Saudi Arabia

A worker in Saudi Arabia weighs Arabic incense inside a fragrance shop
©ILO
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia) has been an ILO member state since 1976 and has ratified 16 ILO Conventions, including six of eight core Conventions. As the kingdom sets out on a path to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons, the ILO in Saudi Arabia has been assisting the kingdom to address labour market issues from the relatively low rate of national’s entering the private sector to labour migration governance and policy making capacity. ILO remains a member of the United Nations Country Team in Saudi Arabia as a non-resident UN agency.

In 2011, the ILO and the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MOLSD), which at the time was the Ministry of Labour, agreed on a Programme of Assistance to provide technical support and advice on employment policies, social security, an un-employment insurance fund, occupational safety and health (OSH), labour inspection, gender, social dialogue, skills development, enterprise development and capacity building in the areas of labour statistics and workers’ committees.

In November 2016, the ILO has proposed a Decent Work Strategy Framework, based on country priorities, development challenges, priorities expressed by the MOLSD, and built on past ILO interventions in the Saudi Arabia since the Programme of Assistance was launched.

Employment Promotion

In 2012, the ILO developed two technical cooperation projects on employment, Decent Work Strategy for Saudization and Establishing a Policy Advisory Unit. Within the context of the Decent Work Strategy for Saudization, the ILO produced a report entitled “Creating More and Better Jobs for Saudi Nationals: A Review of National Policy Measures”. The report submitted to MOLSD in 2013 provides a series of recommendations to develop a coherent policy framework, and offers policy options to assist the ministry to achieve its targets of employing nationals and moving towards a knowledge-based economy. 

The Establishing a Policy Advisory Unit project aimed at strengthening the MOLSD’s capacity to deliver employment promotion services. Capacity building activities were tailored for the MOLSD in order to improve its role in national policymaking and support its restructuring process. Accordingly, two training workshops were organized in May and November 2015 in Turin, Italy: a training course on employment policies with 19 high-level participants, followed by training workshop on gender issues. The project was closed at the end of 2016. See more…

Enterprise Development

To support the government’s efforts in spreading the entrepreneurship culture, the ILO has launched the entrepreneurship programme entitled Know About Business (KAB) in Saudi Arabia, financed by Riyadah, The National Institute of Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. The programme targets both women and men in the country. KAB was previously pilot tested in the country and continues to be implemented among students enrolled in Saudi Arabia’s Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC). The focus of the project is now geared towards the assessment and certification of men and women as KAB National Facilitators. See more…

Social Protection

In 2011, the ILO carried out a high-level social security mission during which proposed policy frameworks for unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance schemes were discussed and agreed upon. The ILO provided further assistance by conducting an actuarial valuation of suggested schemes and drafting the related legislation. In addition, the ILO carried out an actuarial assessment and drafted the law for the establishment of a provident fund scheme for non-Saudi nationals.

In line with ILO social security conventions and international best practices, the agency has assisted the Saudi Arabia to draft an unemployment insurance law, based on extensive tripartite consultations. The unemployment insurance law was enacted by the Saudi Arabian Parliament in January 2014. 

Tripartism and Social Dialogue

In December 2010, the ILO held discussions on institutionalizing social dialogue processes with the labour ministry. A tripartite information session for government, workers’ and employers’ representatives was also organized in Geneva during the 2011 International Labour Conference as introduction to social dialogue concepts and processes, upon which the ILO bases its tripartism and social dialogue activities in Saudi Arabia.

In collaboration with the Tunis-Based Arab Centre for Labour and Administration, in 2012 and 2013 two training workshops were organized by the ILO with the aim of developing a national action plan for social dialogue in the Kingdom. Accordingly, workshops covered social dialogue and negotiations skills on working hours in the private sector, wage policy and minimum wage setting, as well as the role of social dialogue for government, workers’ and employers’ representatives. A social dialogue forum was also organized by the ILO in 2015 on inspection policies and regulations to ensure that businesses comply with labour market regulations. Such efforts were also compounded by forums organized on work, society, and Decent Work in May 2016 in support of the ILO Future of Work Initiative.

Labour Governance

In 2014, the ILO carried a Labour Administration Assessment in order to assist the labour ministry to analyse and review the organization, function and effectiveness of Labour Administration structures and institutions at both the central and local levels. A follow-up mission was then organized to discuss the findings and recommendations of the report, based on which the technical memorandum was finalised and submitted to the labour ministry with a set of agreed upon next steps.

In line with the recommendations of the Labour Administration Assessment, in May 2016 the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Social Affairs were merged into one ministry: The Ministry of Labour and Social Development. Also based on ILO recommendations from the report entitled “Creating More and Better Jobs for Saudi Nationals: A Review of National Policy Measures,” in 2015 the MOLSD established the Jobs Creation Committee, a special commission to create jobs and combat unemployment.

International Labour Standards

In 2016, the ILO provided technical advisory services on child labour issues as well as reporting on the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) which Saudi Arabia has ratified. ILO continues to provide technical assistance and advisory services on child labour in the Kingdom is planning to develop a national strategy for the elimination of child labour.

Since 2013, ILO has been engaged in a dialogue with Saudi Arabian counterparts regarding further ratifications of ILO Conventions and the related need for a legislative reviews to ensure such ratifications fall in line with the national legal frameworks. In turn, during the 2016 International Labour Conference, areas of cooperation were agreed upon between the Kingdom and the ILO, including a comparative analysis of labour legislation. The ILO has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Saudi Arabian Human Resources Development Fund to provide technical support as well as assistance for the development and implementation of the Saudi National Occupation Classification.

Labour Inspection & Occupational Safety and Health

In 2011, the ILO concluded a Labour Inspection Audit Assessment and submitted it to the labour ministry with a number of recommendations. Based on these recommendations, the government has directly financed the participation of 138 Saudi officials to conduct activities in the areas of labour administration and labour inspection. Technical advice has since been provided on the implementation of the labur ministry's labour inspection strategy. In 2013, the labour ministry also hired about 1000 inspectors to support the crackdown on illegal workers in the Kingdom. The ILO has provided technical assistance in preparation for a national OSH profile.