Foreigners have been banned from working in gold and jewelry shops.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour and Social Development has begun the process of fully nationalizing jobs in the kingdom’s gold and jewelry industry.

The move, which will make it illegal to employ foreigners in the sector, follows several failed attempts to Saudize these industry jobs over the last 16 years, according to Saudi Gazette.

It is estimated that the majority of the around 30,000 workers in the sector are expatriates. These are spread across 6,000 gold shops.

The nationalization programme is expected to provide 5,000 jobs for Saudis when it is fully implemented.

The ministry is also hoping to reduce instances of businesses run by foreigners in the name of Saudis by 40%.

During previous Saudization efforts in the sector, many businesses in Makkah and other cities were found to be operating under a form of fake Saudization.

This was partly because work in the sector has proved to be unattractive to Saudi citizens, with monthly salaries averaging $800 to $1,863.

Shops found to be employing foreigners from Sunday will face a $5,324 fine for each expat worker.

Permanent inspectors have been appointed in markets and malls to punish violators.

Foreigners married to Saudi women will be exempt from the new regulation provided they remain together or have children.

The kingdom’s gold and jewelry market are estimated to be worth $3.72 billion.

The ministry has also issued a regulation to fully Saudize other sectors as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reforms. These include mobile phone shops and stores selling female-specific items.