Trapped and Looking to Move: Saudi and UAE Employees Bemoan Rigid Sponsorship Rules

Trapped and Looking to Move: Saudi and UAE Employees Bemoan Rigid Sponsorship Rules
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One of the many surprises that greets the uninformed expat arrival in the Middle East, is the requirement for a sponsor. This issue of sponsorship is ubiquitous and prevails throughout everyday life in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. For example, in order to work, an employee must be sponsored (by either a local company or a “freezone”); in order to obtain a driving licence, the employee must obtain a NOC (“non objection certificate”) from his or her sponsor; in order for the employee’s husband or wife to obtain a driving licence, their spouse must issue a NOC (true); in order for the employee to move from one employer to another, the employee must obtain a NOC from their original employer… and so on and so forth.

In a recent survey conducted by YouGov in KSA and UAE, on behalf of Gulf Marketing Review (GMR), the majority of respondents in both KSA (64%) and UAE (53%) state that they found it difficult to move jobs from one employer to another (of those that switched employer within KSA or UAE).

In KSA, employees that switched encountered the following problems:

Delay in providing appropriate documentation (NOC) – 51%
Commission, bonus or gratuity withheld by old employer – 21%
Final salary withheld by old employer – 16%
Being hit with a “work ban” – 9%
Delay in visa/work permit cancellation – 3%

In the UAE, employees that switched encountered the following problems:

Delay in providing appropriate documentation (NOC) – 30%
Delay in visa/work permit cancellation – 25%
Commission, bonus or gratuity withheld by old employer – 18%
Final salary withheld by old employer – 15%
Being hit with a “work ban” – 11%

In both KSA and UAE, respondents that are currently employed feel it will be difficult to switch employer in the future (58% in KSA and 55% in the UAE). Perhaps more startlingly, 32% of KSA and 37% of UAE employees surveyed, would “definitely” want to change jobs if fewer restrictions were in place, with 48% (47% in UAE), stating they would “maybe” change employer. Based on these results, perhaps it is less surprising to find only 10% of KSA employees and 7% of UAE employees feel their current employer does not follow their countries labour laws.

Despite the restrictions placed on movement between jobs, the majority of respondents feel that at least the labour laws are clear (58% in KSA and 61% in UAE). This does not appear to stop some employers not complying - 10% of KSA employees and 7% of UAE employees feel that their employer does “not follow at all” local labour laws.

The poll was conducted between 5 – 9 January 2012 on behalf of Mediquest, using YouGov’s KSA and UAE panels. YouGov surveyed 758 respondents from KSA and 751 from the UAE.

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