Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah issued a royal decree June 23, 2013, shifting the nation’s weekend for public workers from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday, beginning June 28.
The kingdom switched its national weekend to align its workweek with most of its Arab neighbors. Saudi Arabia was the only member of the Gulf Cooperation Council with a Thursday and Friday weekend, after Oman transitioned to the Friday and Saturday schedule in May.
In his decree, the king said the change will “reduce the negative repercussions on economic and financial activity in the kingdom and make up for lost economic opportunities.”
The new weekend schedule puts Saudi Arabia in line with other countries in the region and allows it to better coordinate business and banking days with non-Muslim nations. Previously, the Saudi Arabian financial market had only three working days in common with the prime global markets of the non-Muslim world. With an extra business day, Saudi Arabia, which boasts the region’s biggest economy and largest stock market, has opened up to more foreign investment.
Most other Arab countries start their weekends on Friday, the Muslim day of communal prayer.
Afghanistan and Yemen are the remaining nations with a Thursday and Friday weekend.
Two-Day Weekend for the Private Sector Next?
Private-sector employees are now calling for a two-day weekend, as the country’s public workforce enjoys. The private sector consists mostly of expat workers, while 92 percent of public-sector employees in 2011 were Saudi nationals.
The Ministry of Labor is considering the move to a two-day break. However, it has said that the weekend for the private sector wouldn’t necessarily follow the public sector’s Friday and Saturday schedule.
“The employers will decide the days when the employees will be given the two days off, as they know better than everybody else their needs and requirements,” said Hattab Al-Enizi, spokesman for the ministry, according to Gulf News.