Jobs for overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia will soon grow less, according to a recruitment expert, as the looming implementation of a new labor policy there will compel companies to limit the number of their foreign employees.
The new Saudi policy — known as Nitaqat — has prodded recruitment firms to call on the Philippine government to act on the impending problems migrant workers abroad will soon face.
“[The Philippine government] should implement strategic employment and diplomatic agenda in the Middle East,” LBS Recruitment Solutions Corp. president and chief executive Loreto Soriano said at a symposium on “Saudization” on Thursday.
“Saudization” refers to the Saudi Arabia’s policy on prioritizing employment for their nationals instead of foreign workers in Saudi-owned firms. The policy, which excludes coverage for household service workers, will be implemented starting Sept. 10.
The “Saudization” program became more urgent in the eyes of the Saudi government in light of the sharp rise in the incidence of joblessness among the youth. Records showed that in 2009, 27 percent of Saudis under 30 were without work.
Soriano, whose company is one of the hundreds of Manila-based recruiters, pointed out that the Aquino administration should study and prepare the implications of the new rule to be imposed by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor.
“Ibig sabihin nito magda-downsize ‘yung global job market natin sa Middle East, lalo na Saudi,” he said.
“The government cannot just say i-a-upsize ‘yung job creation dito sa Pilipinas. Agro-industrial sector [in the Philippines] has been stagnating since 1970s,” Soriano added.
No course of action
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), for its part, said it has no course of action when it comes to Nitaqat.
Eric Endaya, DFA executive director, said bilateral talks between the Saudi and Philippine governments may be needed to address the concern of Filipinos.
He added: “Civil society groups or non-governmental organizations should submit a position paper on the “Saudization” to the DFA, Malacañang, Congress, and even to Labor Department. This will pave the way for the government to really start creating policies.”
Endaya also said the DFA is already in touch with the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia and has instructed Ambassador Ezzedin Tago to submit its recommendations on how to protect the interests of Filipino workers there as the implantation of Nitaqat draws closer.
Respect the new policy
However, lawyer Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who was also at the symposium, said the Philippines has no choice but to respect the new Saudi policy.
“They are clearly looking out for the welfare and advancement of their own citizens. We ought to do the same by preparing a contingency plan for our own nationals that would be affected by this nationalization program,” Pimentel said.
Saudi Arabia is one of the destination countries of Filipino migrant workers and the biggest source of dollar remittances outside the United States, said LBS’ Soriano.
From 2000 to 2009, a total of 778,084 Filipinos were deployed to Saudi Arabia, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) records showed.
As of 2009, Saudi Arabia contributed 52 percent to the Middle East deployment and nearly 30 percent to worldwide deployment of Filipino worker, according to the POEA. — VS, GMA News