JEDDAH: The National Committee of Workers and businessmen have agreed on providing two-day weekly off for employees in the private sector, said Abdul Rahman Al-Zamil, head of the team of businessmen that attended a social dialogue forum on the issue.
"A closed-door meeting of representatives from the three parties have agreed that the weekly off in the private sector would be two days and but did not decide the days of the weekend," said Al-Zamil, who is a prominent businessman and industrialist.
There were proposals to make Friday and Saturday weekly holidays for the benefit of businesses having contacts with international companies and agencies. Al-Zamil expressed his hope that an agreement would be reached on bringing down weekly working hours to 40, a demand that was made to attract Saudi workers to private firms. However, some businessmen have suggested making it 45 hours.
"Most members of our team have agreed to a one-shift duty with work starting at 10 a.m. and exempting Makkah and Madinah from limiting working hours," Al-Eqtisadaih business daily quoted Al-Zamil as saying.
A survey conducted by the Ministry of Labor and King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue on working hours has revealed that shortening working hours in the private sector would encourage citizens to work in that sector.
The study, which covered 3,662 respondents from across the Kingdom, shows that the long working hours is the main reason for the reluctance of young Saudis to take up offers in the private sector. A majority of participants in the study did not support Saturday to be one of the proposed two-day weekend, although they did support a two-day weekend to make it more attractive for Saudis to work in the private sector.
Employment issues and unemployment problems are the main concerns of 49 percent of Saudi youth who took part in the survey. Housing and rent issues came second, concerning 32 percent of participants.
Ibrahim Al-Moaiqali, director general of the Human Resource Development Fund, said Wednesday's dialogue did not reach any consensus on how to confront the challenges facing the private sector and reach solutions that would make the job market more attractive to Saudis.
He emphasized the need for taking a balanced decision to protect workers' rights as well as to boost the national economy. "The decisions should not affect the national economy and the Kingdom's businesses. Private sector investments are a key factor to accelerate economic growth," he added. He said an agreement on weekly off days and weekly working hours would solve one of the major obstacle facing Saudi workers.
Ahmed Al-Humaidan, secretary-general of the dialogue forum and undersecretary at the Labor Ministry, said the ministry has no plan to impose its decision on the private sector. "We organized this forum to reach a consensus on the issue," he pointed out.
He said the Council of Saudi Chambers, the National Committee of Workers and the Labor Ministry should work together as partners to achieve job market stability and accelerate economic and social development.
The dialogue forum discussed four important papers on the effect of working hours on institutions; unification of working hours in the public and private sectors; daily working hours in the wholesale and retail trade; and distribution of daily working hours.
© Arab News 2012