In what has come as a big setback for Indians in Saudi Arabia, the Minister of Labor and Social Development, Dr Ali Al-Ghafees issued a ministerial decision last week restricting the foreign workers in 12 activities and occupations from the beginning of the next Hijri year. According to Saudi Gazette, this decision was taken to ensure more opportunities for the locals. However, the Ministry spokesman Khaled Aba Al-Khail said the decision does not affect the memorandums of understanding (MoUs) signed with various regional governorates to restrict jobs to Saudis. This decision can affect around 12 million foreigners work in Saudi Arabia including 30 lakh Indians who live and work in the country. The implementation of this step will be carried out in a phased manner.

The 12 work areas banned for expats are: watch shops, optical stores, medical equipment stores, electrical and electronics shops, outlets selling car spare part, building material shops, outlets selling all types of carpets, automobile and mobile shops, shops selling home furniture and ready-made office material, sale outlets of ready-made garments, children clothes and men's supplies, household utensils shops and pastry shops.

The following sectors will be restricted for the hiring of expatriates from September 11, 2018:

- Car and motorbike showrooms
- Readymade clothes stores
- Home and office furniture stores
- Home appliances and kitchen utensils stores

The following sectors will be restricted for hiring of expatriates from November 9, 2018:

- Electronics stores
- Watches and clocks stores
- Optics stores

The following sectors will be restricted for hiring of expatriates from January 7, 2019:

- Medical equipment and supplies stores
- Building material stores
- Auto spare parts stores
- Carpet selling stores
- Sweet shops

This new rule is part of the ongoing economic reforms launched by Saudi Arabia last year to ease joblessness among Saudis by 2020. Saudi Arabia is India's fourth largest trade partner after China, the US and the UAE. The country is a major source of India's energy requirement as it accounts for almost one-fifth of India's crude oil requirement.