Labor chief allays OFWs’ fears of ‘Saudization’
The Department of Labor and Employment on Wednesday allayed fears of overseas Filipino workers and their families about a new Saudi Arabia policy aimed at limiting the number of migrant laborers employed by private companies there.
But though the new policy was “no cause for undue worry,” about 90,000 OFWs working in small establishments could be affected and sent home, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said in a statement.
Baldoz said the new Saudization program—known as nitaqat (zones or ranges in Arabic)—may have “only very minimal impact” on prospective OFWs who would like to work in Saudi Arabia and on OFWs who are already there.
The OFWs who are employed by small establishments may be the ones most likely to be laid off, she said.
“If this would be the case, we estimate that some 90,000 cleaners, guards and watchmen, construction workers, and other low-skilled types of laborers could be affected,” she said.
“However, we will not have an accurate picture until after the completion of the categorization on Aug. 30,” Baldoz clarified.
She explained that the nitaqat is one of the number of measures that the Saudi government is implementing “in order to improve the work environment, labor productivity, employment stability, justice and transparency” in the kingdom.
Under the nitaqat, the Saudi labor ministry would classify 300,000 Saudi companies into four categories, namely, excellent and green (complying companies) and yellow and red (non-complying companies), each of which will be required to employ a minimum number of Saudi citizens based on company size and the occupations of the company’s workers.
The deadline for the completion of the categorization of Saudi companies is August 30.
The Pasay City-based Blas F. Ople Center, a migrant workers advocacy group, was dubious about Baldoz’s apparent downplaying of the effects of the new policy.
The center’s president, Susan Ople, noted that the 90,000 OFW whom Baldoz said might be affected by the nitaqat is bigger than the number of workers repatriated from Libya, Egypt and Yemen during the turmoil there.
She called on the DOLE to start briefing families with OFWs in Saudi Arabia about the nitaqat system to allay fear and confusion.
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