JEDDAH: P.K. Abdul Ghafour
Published — Monday 4 March 2013
Last update 6 March 2013 4:30 am
The Labor Ministry yesterday announced concessions for the Burmese community living in the Kingdom, saying four Burmese workers would be considered one expat under the Nitaqat system.
The ministry is also considering a new law that would enforce compulsory retirement of foreigners who have crossed 60. However, exemptions would be made in certain categories to make use of their expertise.
The ministry’s decision on employment of Burmese workers comes in line with the government’s move to rectify the situation of the community estimated at more than 350,000. However, it pointed out such workers should not exceed 50 percent of the total work force in a firm.
“If the number exceeds the limit, then every Burmese in excess of 50 percent would be considered one foreign worker,” said Hattab Al-Anazi, spokesman of the ministry.
“We have taken this decision to encourage the private sector to employ these workers who are available in the Kingdom, instead of recruiting workers from foreign countries,” Al-Anazi said. The Saudi government has decided not to deport Burmese people considering their special situation.
“This is a great decision,” said Mohammed Rauf Rafi, secretary-general of European Rohingya Council in the Kingdom, and thanked the Saudi government for the noble gesture. He estimated the community’s population at more than 350,000, citing latest census figures.
Rafi disclosed the government’s plan to issue special iqamas to the Burmese within a month. “The government has also promised to give us higher education, training and health facilities,” he told Arab News. Burmese people, who ran away from oppression back home, have been living in the Kingdom for the last 60 years.
Samir Hussien, head of the Human Resources Committee at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged authorities to pass a legislation terminating employment of expatriates over 60 in order to create more jobs for Saudis.
According to estimates, about half a million of the total eight million foreign workers are above 60, said Amal Asaad Sherah, vice president of the committee. “A package of decisions must be made soon to ban recruitment of any foreign worker aged more than 55,” she added. However, she pointed out that experienced expats needed to train Saudis.