Deployment of OFWs in Middle East seen to decline further in 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East is seen to decline further in 2019 due to the lower crude prices, a recruitment consultant and migration expert said Friday.

Recruitment consultant and migration expert Manny Geslani said the economies of some Middle East countries, especially Saudi Arabia, is predicted to stay flat with lower crude prices.

The deployment of OFWs in 2017 dipped by nine percent while an eight to 10 percent decline is seen in 2018 due to the instability of crude oil prices.

Because of the deployment ban of household service workers (HSW) in Kuwait ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte in January, which lasted for almost five months, only 20,000 HSWs were deployed in 2018.

“2018 started badly for OFWs with the ban on HSWs for Kuwait,” Geslani said in a statement.

READ: Duterte orders lifting of OFW deployment ban to Kuwait

“The ban which lasted for almost five months will impact deployment to Kuwait by almost 80 percent and only less than 20,000 HSWs were deployed in 2018,” he added.

Geslani also noted that Kuwait had an average deployment of 60,000 newly hired HSWs in 2017, which is second only to Saudi Arabia, which accommodated over new 170,000 HSWs.

Meanwhile, he noted that more than 3,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia had to be retrenched or laid off after several construction and manufacturing companies suffered “disastrous” closures when the government failed to pay off their contracts.

“Huge construction projects in the billions of dollars are now being reassessed in the Kingdom, and Saudization is being implemented at a faster pace with previous white collar jobs for expatriates are now being taken over by Saudi nationals,” Geslani said.

The recruitment consultant said the economies of other Middle East countries such as Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and Iran also “stayed flat” due to the lower oil prices.

He said only Qatar managed to elude the decline in deployment because of the steadier  prices of natural gas.

“The massive construction boom in Qatar continues due to the World Cup in 2022. That is why its demand for construction workers is still high and later on hotel and service workers will be needed for the new hotels and restaurants being constructed for this soccer event that will be held in 2022,” he said.

Geslani, however, said that there is still a “silver lining” for OFWs eyeing to work in Japan, China, New Zealand, and parts of Europe.

He said in April, Japan will receive OFWs with working visas good for five years in 14 sectors, particularly nursing, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and other minor fields.

Meanwhile, New Zealand needs construction and farm workers. Australia needs construction workers while China needs HSWs and English teachers.

Geslani said Germany continues to attract nurses while former Eastern Bloc countries like Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary need hotel workers.

“The Middle East is still the largest labor market for OFWs with over 70 percent of new hires going to those countries, but emerging markets like Japan and China will attract more skilled workers to those countries in the next few years,” he said. /ee