Saudi Riyadh
An aerial view shows Kingdom tower and the King Fahad road in Riyadh. An estimated 21,530 foreign pharmacists are registered in Saudi Arabia, according to 2018 figures. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Saudi Arabia seeks to employ 3,000 Saudi pharmacists by 2022 under a plan to replace expatriates in the sector, according to an official.

The first phase of the plan went into effect last week aiming at Saudising 20 per cent of pharmacists in the profession. An extra 30 per cent is envisaged in the second phase of the plan due to start next year.

In February, the minister of human resources issued a decree for gradual replacement of foreign pharmacists in Saudi Arabia with Saudi counterparts. The decree applies to institutions employing at least five expatriate pharmacists.

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“Since the decree was issued, 1,500 Saudi pharmacists have been employed," spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources Nasser Al Hazani told state television Al Ekhabriya.

“The decree is part of a host of initiatives launched by the ministry aimed at motivating and improving the work environment in the private sector to employ Saudis and raise competitiveness level among enterprises at the labour market,” Al Hazani said.

“It also aims to increase the participation of Saudis in national development,” he added.

The official said the ministry will take the necessary measures to implement the decree in different enterprises in the kingdom, and vowed an unspecified penalty against the non-compliant businesses.

An estimated 21,530 foreign pharmacists are registered in Saudi Arabia, according to 2018 figures.

Last month, the Saudi consultative Shura Council voted for a proposal to Saudise the pharmacy sector, one of the biggest commercial activities in the kingdom. The sector is dominated by Arab expatriates, according to Saudi media.

The proposal calls for limiting ownership of and works at pharmacies to Saudi nationals as part of the country’s drive to provide jobs for Saudi graduates of pharmacology schools.

The author of the proposal argued that there are enough Saudi pharmacists to meet the local job market needs.

Foreigners make up about 10.5 million of Saudi Arabia’s total population of 34.8 million.