Number of Pakistani expats exceeds 1.5 m

Updated 29 August 2012
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Number of Pakistani expats exceeds 1.5 m

RIYADH: The number of Pakistani expats in Saudi Arabia is consistently increasing and currently exceeds 1.5 million.
Pakistani Ambassador Mohammed Naeem Khan said yesterday that the Pakistanis were “committed and conscientious workers” because of their proximity to the Kingdom and its people, especially in terms of religion and age-old ties.
Ambassador Khan was commenting on a report of the Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment (BEOE), a regulatory body of the Pakistan government, which controls workers’ employment and the emigration process.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia has become the largest market for Pakistani workers in the world. “Saudi Arabia being an Islamic state has been an attractive place to work in for millions of Pakistani job seekers aiming for employment abroad,” said the report.
The report said that Islamabad attracts huge foreign exchange with continuous growth in the number of workers traveling to Gulf states.
The report said that the total number of Pakistani workers deployed in the Kingdom has doubled during the last seven or eight years.
“Presently, Pakistan is exporting skilled, semiskilled and unskilled workers to Saudi Arabia,” said the report, adding that the number of visa issued by the Saudi Embassy and Consulate has risen to 25,000 every month.
A large number of Pakistani are traveling for jobs, while many of them arrive in the Kingdom for Umrah and business. The Pakistani population of 1.5 million is the highest overseas population of the country.
The UK, US and UAE are other countries with a significant Pakistani population, which varies from 1.2 million to 1 million. The remittances of Pakistani workers from the Kingdom have increased significantly to about $3 billion annually.
Asked about the Kingdom’s plan to recruit more doctors, engineers, paramedical staff and technicians from Pakistan, the ambassador said that “the plan was being implemented and the process is on.”
He pointed out that a large number of skilled workers are coming to Saudi Arabia. Also, the middle category workers arriving in the Kingdom include professionals in the fields of medicine, health care, nursing, management, engineering, sales and courier services, he added.
He said Pakistani workers were more committed than any other expatriate groups because they consider the Kingdom as their second home. “They get an opportunity to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, a lifetime dream of millions of Muslims,” said the envoy.
The diplomat said that the Kingdom had been hiring doctors, engineers, teachers, bankers, IT and telecom experts and accountants from Pakistan in large numbers. These professionals are fortunate to have handsome salaries along with fringe benefits, accommodation and holidays. Usually hiring companies afford all of their expenses including visa fees, airfare and expenditure of annual or bi-annual visits to homeland.
The salaries of Pakistani professionals vary from SR 5,000 to SR 20,000 easily, which increases with the passage of time, experience and opportunities.
“There is a constant demand of laborers and technical staff in different ongoing projects in Saudi Arabia, which is witnessing heavy construction activities,” said Khan, adding that Pakistani workers have contributed to each and every project in the Kingdom.
Asked about the plans to recruit female workers from Pakistan, he said there was no such move for the time being. “But, there are a number of Pakistani female doctors currently working here,” said the envoy.
Makkah and Madinah have created opportunities for millions of workers in Pakistan and other developing countries to complete their large projects by 2016. Normally, Muslim workers are preferred in these two cities.


Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

Updated 16 min 32 sec ago
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Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

  • Saudi Arabia’s first women-only 10-kilometer cycling race was held in April 2018 at the King Abdullah City for Sports in Jeddah
  • More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members

JEDDAH: Before Saudi Arabia’s women drivers there were Saudi women cyclists. Thousands of women around the Kingdom have taken to two wheels in the past few years, and groups of female cyclists are a common sight on city streets.

Now four young women have taken cycling to a new level by becoming the first Saudi female cycling team to join the Global Biking Initiative (GBI) European tour, an annual seven-day ride that highlights the sport and raises money for a range of charitable causes.

Sisters Fatimah and Yasa Al-Bloushi, Dina Al-Nasser and Anoud Aljuraid — founder members of the HerRide cycling group — joined hundreds of cyclists from all over the world earlier this month when the tour kicked off from Gothenburg in Sweden before heading through Denmark and on to the port of Hamburg in northern Germany.

More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members. 

The dynamic HerRide team shares a passion for adventure, and a love of outdoor activities and sports. Fatimah Al-Bloushi, the team captain, told Arab News that when she started the group in July, 2017, “we were a group of amateur cycling enthusiasts and our idea was to train to be the first Saudi female team to participate in GBI Europe 2018.” 

This year was Fatimah’s second time in the GBI tour. Last year she was the first and only Saudi woman to take part in the event. 

“I want to empower Saudi women and encourage cycling,” she said.

Fatimah also enjoys skydiving, surfing, abseiling and climbing, and is also the first woman member of the Saudi Cycling Federation. In her hometown of Alkhobar, she organizes women’s gatherings twice a week to cycle together along the beachfront. She also volunteers to teach cycling for beginners. 

Like all sports events and tours, training plays a crucial role in preparing for the GBI tour. Team member Anoud Aljuraid, an accomplished hiker and technical climber, met Fatimah two years ago while climbing the Ol Doinyo Lengai, or “Mountain of God,” volcano in Tanzania.

“For me the challenge was sitting on the bike for up to eight hours while riding up to 100 kilometers a day,” Aljuraid said. “It was also hard to maintain a certain speed to reach the next destination or nutrition point on time, but my training helped me get over those challenges.”

Although the number of women cyclists on the streets of Saudi Arabia is growing, challenges remain for those joining the sport.

Team member Dina Al-Nasser lives in Riyadh and enjoys long-distance cycling as well as hiking and boxing. Her biggest challenge during the GBI tour was cycling alongside cars.

“I mostly trained at home, but it’s hard for me to train in areas where men usually train, such as Wadi Hanifa and Ammariyah,” she said. “However, I was able to get over my fear and by the third day on the tour I was riding alongside trucks and didn’t even notice.”

Al-Nasser said that cycling is challenging not only for women in Saudi Arabia but for professional cyclists in general.

“We hope that the streets will be more bike friendly, and that people can adopt the same infrastructure for cyclists that we have seen on the tour — such as special paved paths and traffic lights — here in the Kingdom,” she said. 

“Hopefully, cycling will become a lifestyle in Saudi Arabia and we will see people cycling to work one day.” 

The Saudi HerRide women’s team celebrate a challenging stage finish on the GBI European tour. (Supplied photo)

Despite the challenges, the HerRide team say they are hoping to join the next GBI tour. “It was a great experience to cross three countries by bicycle,” Yasa Al-Bloushi said. “Of course, we got some bruises and had falls here and there, but I look at that as a sign of accomplishment.”

The team members gained valuable skills from watching other riders during the tour. “I learned how to be a part of a team and to look out for each other. It was important to listen to my team-mates and focus on their needs,” said Dina Al-Nasser.

 Fatima Al-Bloushi said that the support of her team made her second tour more special than the first. “We knew each other’s weaknesses from day one and we always had each other’s back. If our energy levels were low, someone would provide nutrition. When our spirits were down, we had music to give us a boost, and when someone was nervous, we reminded each other to have fun,” she said.

“I experienced GBI twice. The first time I went alone and came back with a family of friends. The second time I went with friends and came back with family.”

The woman said the spirit of cooperation among cyclists on the tour was empowering. “What made this experience even more amazing, besides the beautiful scenery, was the quality of people we met,” said Fatima. “If we were struggling, they would pass by with a smile, give you a pat on the back and tell you that you were strong enough to push through — it really did make us feel stronger.”

 In future, the group plans to hire a professional trainer and offer cycling workshops for Saudi women. They also hope long-distance cycling events, such as the GBI, will one day be held in Saudi Arabia. 

“Under Vision 2030, I’m sure there will be a lot of local events for cyclists in the Kingdom, including women,” said Al-Nasser.

The four cyclists have some words of encouragement for Saudi women hoping to fulfil their dreams. “You will always find people who will give you negative comments, but as long as you are doing what you love and are not hurting anyone, just keep going,” said Al-Nasser. 

Fatimah said: “Two years ago I was looking to join a cycling team, but as a woman in Saudi Arabia I was unable to — now things have changed. My advice to all women out there is never say ‘no,’ always say ‘yes’ to opportunities.”