Migrante-Middle East, a Filipino migrants' rights group, today said, citing local reports, the Saudi government through an official of its labor ministry on Monday made an announcement that it will not renew the work permits of foreign workers who have spent six years in the country.
"This is a no surprise to us, since months ago the host govt. labor ministry had been openly announced that it needs to seriously implement a labor plan to employ their own national over expatriate workers called Saudization," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.
Saudization is a labor employment scheme where in a company, locally owned or foreign, must employ Saudi nationals at least about 10% of its total work force. But the Saudi ministry of labor admitted that Saudization was somewhat a failure since its implementation 5 years ago.
Monterona added that this is the right decision or action a government could do if it faces high rate of unemployment among its own nationals –employ their own people first before expatriate workers including OFWs- by implementing a more doable employment scheme for its own nationals.
Monterona noted that several migrant-receiving host governments have already implemented a work permit limit. South Korea and Japan, among others imposed a limit on the stay of foreign workers. "Saudi Arabia would be the first in the Middle East to implement a limit on the stay of foreign workers," he added.
"If implemented, this will affect thousands of OFWs who have been staying in Saudi for more than 6 years," Monterona adding that 60% of the 1.2-M OFWs in Saudi are rehires.
Monterona also noted that out of the 60% rehires, 40% have been working for more than 6 years and above which would be affected by the 6-year work permit cap.
He added that the impact of the work permit limit is incomparable to the present labor row between Saudi and the Philippines in the hiring of OFW-domestic workers which have been temporarily suspended as the PH govt. is determined to implement a reform package enhancing protection mechanisms for OFW-DH amid numerous cases of abuses and labor malpractice.
"On the part of the PH govt. under the Aquino administration, the message is clear: the Saudi's labor market for migrant workers including OFWs is shrinking, as the host govt. is also facing an unemployment problem," Monterona added.
Monterona said the best that the Aquino administration could do is to develop the local economy by implementing genuine agrarian reform program and nationalization of basic industries and shun away reliance to multinationals and transnational corporations who dominated almost all the Philippine industries exploiting our human labor cheap and raw materials.
"As we have been saying, the lucrative labor export business of the government will eventually lead to bankruptcy as countries in the Middle East hosting millions of OFWs are now facing unemployment problem too –problem that is serious enough that provide impetus to the so called Arab Spring. Naturally, they will favor the employment of their own nationals than Filipinos no matter how good and skilled our workers are," Monterona concluded.
There are about 10-M expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia employed in various trades such as construction, telecommunications, service sectors, domestic workers, among others.
Majority of the migrant workers are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, and other nationalities. There are an estimated 1.2-M OFWs working in Saudi Arabia.
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator
Mobile No. 00966535921228