x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Talks begin in Saudi on changing weekend to step in line with Gulf

Saudi Arabia rethinks whether having its weekend halfway through the rest of the world's working week is a good idea.

Saudi Arabia rethinks whether having its weekend halfway through the rest of the world's working week is a good idea. AFP PHOTO/Bilal QABLAN
Saudi Arabia rethinks whether having its weekend halfway through the rest of the world's working week is a good idea. AFP PHOTO/Bilal QABLAN

Saudi Arabia has restarted talks on whether to modernise its weekend so that it begins on Friday, falling in line with other Gulf countries which have already made the switch to a work schedule more conducive to international business.

The Shoura Council will begin discussions and take a vote on whether a Friday-Saturday weekend would be more efficient, Arab News reported on Saturday.

The kingdom currently takes a Thursday-Friday weekend, the same as Yemen and Oman. Most of the Gulf states have moved their weekend to Friday-Saturday so that they can trade with the rest of the world.

"If it does change, it'll bring obvious benefits to the private sector which now accounts for close to 50 per cent of the economy of Saudi Arabia," said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi.

"It'll link Saudi Arabia with the rest of the world, and they'll only lose one day instead of losing two days.

"This is the largest stock market in the Middle East and it's operating on a Saturday-Wednesday basis," he added. "That's not very efficient for making international investors inclined to invest in Saudi Arabia."

Decisions made by the Shoura Council are not binding, but would be an important barometer of support for an eventual change of weekend.

Any planned change of weekend would require also the support of the kingdom's business owners, according to a spokesman for the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"So long as the have the support that society needs it, the businesses need it pass it as an idea supported by evidence of why the public needs it," he said. "Then the Council of Saudi Chambers will study it and officially it will pass to the minister of trade and industry."

This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has proposed moving its weekend. Several efforts have been made in the past, but they have run into opposition for religious reasons.

However, some workers at Saudi companies said they work during the weekend anyway, simply to be able to conduct normal business activities with the rest of the world.