Hundreds of Yemeni medical staff, academics and other professionals in the southern region of Saudi Arabia on the Yemeni border have learned in recent weeks that they are being made redundant, several Yemenis told Reuters.
The exact number is not known. Staff said they had not received any justification for government orders to stop renewing Yemenis’ contracts.
A Saudi analyst told Reuters the move was aimed at freeing up jobs for citizens of the south as part of efforts to tackle Saudi unemployment of 11.7%.
Saudi Arabia is home to 2 million Yemeni workers, according to the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.
Most send money home where the outlook is bleak due to the war. The World Bank estimates that one in ten people in Yemen depend on remittances for their basic needs.
Remittances are also a major source of foreign exchange for Yemen, whose government struggles to pay public sector salaries.
Several Yemeni professors who spoke with colleagues at universities in the south told Reuters that Najran University was terminating the contracts of 100 Yemenis. About 200 staff from other universities in the South suffer the same fate.
The Saudi government has sought to hire more of its own citizens into the workforce, with Yemenis complaining in recent years that they have had to give way to the Saudis.
Occasional mass evictions have been observed in recent years, but for the most part the victims have been low-skilled or undocumented workers, rather than middle-class professionals.
Meanwhile, Riyadh has increased the fees charged to dependents of Yemenis, making life in Saudi Arabia prohibitive for some.
This current wave of layoffs seems to concern only qualified professionals.
Weeks before the latest expulsions, leaks about the Saudi authorities’ request of local employers in the southern governorates of the kingdom to do without their Yemeni workers had raised fears of the imminent expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis residing in these areas.
According to local sources, a leaked classified document allegedly included a request to “transfer their existing Yemeni workers to other branches outside these provinces, or to employ them in other companies.”
These companies could fire these workers, cancel their residency and expel them within four months, provided the Saudi employees or those of other nationalities take up their duties.
The sources added that the document included an order “not only to end their [Yemenis] employment contracts but also preventing them from renewing their housing contracts in these neighborhoods.
The dire humanitarian and economic situation in Yemen
Yemen has been in a civil war since late 2014.
Since then, the Yemeni economy has collapsed, pushing up commodity prices and pushing millions of families to the brink of famine.
The war has displaced 4 million people and destroyed the country’s education and health sectors.
Yemen imports around 90% of its food. War, destroyed infrastructure, the decline of the private sector and the non-payment of wages in the public sector in the north of the country have all contributed to the rise in food prices.
Mustafa Nasr, director of the Center for Economic Studies and Media in Yemen, said: âThe Yemeni riyal has lost more than two-thirds of its value. The government lost its basic resources and millions of Yemenis lost their sources of income. “
An analysis from May 2021 shows that “the cost of the minimum food basket was 20% higher than the levels already well above the average recorded in early January 2021”.
After 7 years of conflict and economic crisis, many Yemenis have exhausted their savings and sold all their valuables like property or livestock.
Some 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people depend on some form of aid. The UN has called Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
According to the IMF consultations of May-June 2021, â(economic) production is expected to contract further by 2% in 2021 after falling 8.5% in 2020. Continued financing of the budget deficit by the central bank and depreciation of the resulting exchange rate, as well as rising international food and fuel prices, will contribute to rapid inflation again. ”