Saudi Arabia bans migrants from driving for Uber as coronavirus threatens jobs

Saudi Arabia bans migrants from driving for Uber as coronavirus threatens jobs
2 min read
03 April, 2020
Non-Saudi nationals will not be allowed to drive Ubers cabs as unemployment rises in the kingdom.
Only Saudis can drive Uber cabs [Getty]

Saudi Arabia has banned non-Saudi citizens from driving Ubers cabs and other ride-sharing applications to curb unemployment among citizens as the global coronavirus pandemic continues.

The kingdom's minister of human resources and social development Ahmed Al-Rajhi, issued a statement limiting those who can be contracted with ride-sharing service to Saudi citizens only to "help young Saudis improve their income and to contribute to the country's economy".

Rajhi warned that those who flout the new rule will be penalised for breaking the law. Punishments that migrant workers are often subjected to include prison, hefty fines and deportation.

One of the most common jobs for migrant workers in the kingdom is to drive taxis.

The decision comes as unemployment continues to rise in Saudi Arabia as the country slips into uncertainty over the novel coronavirus disease. 

In December, the General Authorities for Statistics announced a rise in unemployment as it fell to the lowest in more than three years. 

Unemployment slipped to 12 percent in the third quarter from 12.3 percent of 2019, affecting mainly the private sector.

Saudi Arabia is bracing for a coronavirus-led economic dip on top of possible austerity measures as crude prices go into free fall. 

Huge losses are expected after the Arab world's biggest economy shut down cinemas, malls and restaurants, halted flights, suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage, along with locking down major cities in the country.

Many government workers fear cuts to state allowances are coming despite rising living costs.

Some Saudis also worry that recruitment in the public and private sectors will freeze, with unemployment already running high.

Meanwhile, Saudi students are worried that government scholarships for overseas education will take a hit.

The finance ministry has instructed government bodies to submit proposals to slash this year's spending by 20 to 30 percent, the economic consultancy Nasser Saidi and Associates said in a research note.


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