Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on foreign workers has thrown millions of lives into turmoil and caused rioting in big cities, but the economy should benefit in the long run as Saudi nationals fill the gaps and cut their dependence on the state.
Nearly a million foreigners have left Saudi Arabia since March, when authorities stopped turning a blind eye to visa irregularities they had tolerated for decades, and tens of thousands more have been detained in raids on offices and marketplaces that began this month.
Matt Smith reports for Reuters:
The restrictions on Saudi society, where morality police patrol public spaces to enforce approved modes of behavior, has created a uniquely captive audience for web-based news and entertainment, media experts say.
With a population of 28.3 million, Saudi Arabia is now the biggest user of YouTube per capita in the world, and according to analysts Semiocast was the eighth most active country on Twitter as of April, accounting for 2.33 percent of all tweets.
The Economist on Saudi crackdown on undocumented foreign workers:
All this is meant to lower the kingdom’s unemployment rate, officially 13 percent but believed to be twice as high among the young. Although trimming the foreign workforce will theoretically free up jobs for locals, few Saudis seem likely to seek them, least of all those of the menial kind, which the kingdom’s 19m citizens tend to shun. Still, some economists expect longer-term benefits, as an overall rise in labour costs makes Saudis more attracted to lower-prestige and starting-level jobs, where wages have long been kept down by the abundance of foreign labour.
The forlorn hope that the Saudi ruling family would budge on this issue reveals some misunderstandings – which can be attributed to wishful thinking – about the way the system works. Governance in the country is first and foremost a bargain between the al-Saud family and the religious scholars, or ulama. There are other bargains, such as that with the Hejazi commercial elite, which was replaced by a Najdi elite after the oil boom of the 1970s; but the key alliance for ensuring the social and political peace that al-Saud needs to maintain its rule is that with the ulama.