RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to set minimum wage guidelines for Saudi nationals, but not for the millions of foreign workers in the Gulf oil powerhouse, the Labor Ministry said on Tuesday.
A ministry spokesman said a plan was in the works to set minimum wage targets for Saudis such as teachers or store cashiers as a part of a program to create more jobs for citizens of one of the richest nations in the world.
Labor Minister Ghazi al-Gosaibi said wages for Saudis in the private sector were shamefully low.
"The statement doesn't mean we will force companies to accept pre-determined salaries," ministry spokesman Hattab al-Enezy told AFP. "But we will create guidelines for salaries suitable for the field of work."
Gosaibi said many businesses were not following closely a "Saudi-ization" program, which requires companies to reserve a number of jobs for citizens, and criticized the wages offered to Saudis.
"I feel ashamed that there are 270,000 unemployed Saudi young men and a similar number of unemployed Saudi young women in a country that employs over 7 million foreigners," he said, according to reports.
"The level of wages for Saudis in the private sector is a shame," he said.
The 7 million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia constitute over a quarter of the country's total population of 26 million.
Most come from much poorer countries in South and Southeast Asia, and the government is concerned that many companies are hiring foreigners who accept lower wages instead of recruiting Saudis.
Gosaibi expressed concern that the global financial crisis would send a new wave of foreign job-seekers into Saudi Arabia. - AFP