Why do workers in Saudi take the most paid holidays in the world?
Saudi Arabia is a land of growing prosperity and is known to be expanding its entertainment sector. Ahmad Al-Khatib, Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), recently said that the Kingdom was to invest $64bn in its entertainment sector over the coming decade.
A recent study by Ipsos investigating how workers in 27 countries handle their vacation days has revealed that Saudi has come out on top in a rather interesting category: Taking the most annual vacation days in the world, rather than losing them before the end of the year.
Is it possible that the increasing number of local attractions is what’s driving Saudi citizens and expats to claim as much of their allotted paid leave? Or are there other reasons?
Workers in Saudi get 30+ days away from work annually
(Chart by Statista)
So how many days off are these workers enjoying? According to labor laws, employees are entitled to 21 days of paid leave. However, employees that have been employed by a company for more than 5 years are entitled to 30 days.
Top that off, Muslim workers who have been employed for a minimum of two years are entitled to a paid leave of not less than ten days and not more than fifteen days, including Eid Al-Adha holiday, to perform Hajj only once during their service if he has not performed it before. This is in accordance with Labour Law Article 114.
Also, take into consideration that Saudi has numerous religious and national holidays which vary year by year and could total upwards of 20 days, and you are left with a significant chunk of the year allocated as time off for these employees.
(Infographic by Statista)
Furthermore, there has been a trend among public workers who often abuse sick leave and take it as a day off. As a result, the government has placed more stringent regulations on public employees for taking sick days off. The majority of government employees in the Kingdom are nationals, who favor these positions over private sector ones.
Sick leave is allowed as follows, upon proof of a medical certificate:
-First 30 days: 100% of workday pay
-31 to 90 days: 75% of workday pay
-91 days to 120 days: unpaid
So what are employees doing with their time off?
It seems that the Kingdom’s employees are indeed enjoying the benefits of a boosted entertainment sector. In the same study by Ipsos, the research firm found that there was a 3% decrease in the number of Saudi’s employees who will be leaving the country during their vacation period, showing an increasing inclination towards a ‘staycation.’
When asked if they check their work emails or messages during their holidays, 53% of employees in Saudi replied that they don’t check for office communication. This number has is in fact registered an increase of 5% year-on-year.
Whether the growing entertainment sector can be used as the explanation behind this high demand for a vacation is yet to be seen. It surely is a contributor, but other factors are involved.
Saudi enjoys wealth from rich oil & gas deposits, yet has a large number of low-earning expats. The country enjoyed a GDP per capita of $20,796 in 2017, according to Trading Economics. The high-earning upper to middle classes have a lot of money to spend, and will naturally look to take as much time as possible away from work to enjoy their hard-earned cash.
And now they have more cash incentives.
Consider also that the government has a tendency to dole out grants and financial support to its nationals every so often.
In January, Reuters reported: “A package of handouts to Saudi Arabian citizens to compensate them for cost of living increases will cost the government about $13.3 billion (SAR 50 billion) this year, the information minister was quoted as saying.”
State employees were each to be allocated approximately $266 in handouts. About 1.18 million Saudis are employed in the government sector.
In the end, it boils down to a population with a lot of money to spend and little time to spend it, which is pushing citizens to make the most out of the days they can enjoy.