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Economists divided over 40-hour working week in Saudi Arabia

Economists are divded over proposals to reduce working hours at the private sector in Saudi Arabia.

Source : Saudi Gazette / 10 Feb 2014

A number of economic experts have criticized proposals to reduce working hours in the private sector, Al-Madinah daily reported.

Some have stressed that it is important to reduce working hours, others believe businesses have the right to ask their employees to work certain hours, while the rest said reducing working hours should be based on the type of business.

Economics expert Mohammad Al-Suwailem said reducing working hours would have a limited effect on the production sector as factories work certain hours anyway.

He pointed out other sectors, especially the management and administrative sectors, would not be affected by the reduction in working hours.

Al-Suwailem said: “Reducing working hours will allow employees to enjoy a two-day weekend in comparison to the one-day weekend.

“Businesses will initially be affected but this system is applied in many other world countries and any adverse effects will not last for a long time.”

He said reducing working hours would provide employees with more time to spend with their families and attend to their personal affairs.

It would also relieve pressure on public transportation, reduce electricity consumption and ease traffic congestion, he said.

Economic expert Ali al-Jaafari said many private companies have applied a two-day weekend and it has not affected their business.

“The reduction of working hours will not have a large effect on private businesses, but businesses are claiming that they have to pay employees the same wages for lower productivity and working hours, which may affect their profitability,” he said.

He said what is more important than reducing the working hours is allowing employees a two-day weekend.

Al-Jaafari noted that businesses have the right to ask employees to work 48 hours a week but employees also have the right to a two-day weekend.

Basheer Bakheet, another economist, said reducing working hours for the private sector requires a more detailed study because businesses differ in terms of needs.

He pointed out that during the summer season workers in the contracting and construction sectors work eight hours a day, which is considered too much.

However, in the banking sector many employees have to work long hours as their employers are linked to international money markets.

He said the nature of business should play a role in defining the required working hours and did not understand the logic behind asking all businesses to apply a two-day weekend.

"There should be flexibility in terms of catering for different types of businesses and whether there is a need for more or less working hours," he said.

According to Bakheet, there are no statistics about the productivity of employees in the Kingdom.


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