Recruitment Agencies

How they operate

Recruitment consultants or agents play a major role in the placement of workers in a host of occupations in Saudi Arabia.

In view of the distance between Saudi Arabia and the countries that supply many of the region’s employees, it’s necessary for agents to act as middlemen. Private recruitment consultants and headhunters in western countries (and particularly in London and New York) deal with most managerial jobs in Saudi Arabia, while agencies in India (particularly Bombay), Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Korea, the Philippines (Manila) and Thailand (Bangkok) supply most of the enormous number of manual labourers employed in Saudi Arabia’s numerous construction projects.

Agencies tend to specialise in particular areas of work, e.g. medical and nursing staff, computer personnel, accountants, construction managers, executive and office staff, engineering and the technical trades. Agency and consultancy fees are paid by the employer, with no charge to staff. Fees are usually a percentage of the annual salary, ranging from 10 to 20 per cent for most jobs but lower for those with high salaries. Regular customers are often offered preferential rates.

Recruitment agencies in Saudi Arabia itself are sometimes used for placing expatriates in temporary work or for expatriate wives wishing to take up local employment. There are numerous regulations controlling the employment of spouses, and separate work visas are needed; the agent handles the details. Local agents are also used if expatriates change jobs. This, however, is uncommon, as expatriates are normally sent to Saudi Arabia under contract and job changes are restricted by their employers. You might under certain circumstances be allowed to break your contract, in which case a local agency might be of use. Otherwise, at the conclusion of your contract, a local agency might find you another job.

Government Employment Service

Saudi Arabia has no equivalent of the nationally-organised job centres found in western countries, and it’s the responsibility of the Ministries of Labour and Social Affairs to deal with employment (Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Riyadh 11157 (Tel. 966-1-477 14800)).

Saudi Arabia is trying to balance the need to import foreign labour with the interests of the local population, and companies are strongly encouraged to take on local nationals where possible. This ‘encouragement’ can be quite robust, and the Ministries are able to restrict the number of work visas issued or renewed to a company in order to comply with a quota of local intake.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Gulf States & Saudi Arabia. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

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