DUBAI: The Saudi government’s efforts to employ its nationals is impacting on the deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to the kingdom, the Philippine labor chief has said.
“Hiring of Filipino workers (in the kingdom) may possibly drop by 20 to 30 percent this year because of the Saudization program,” according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, as reported by local daily Philippine Star.
The labor official described his recent trip to the kingdom, wherein he said he could hardly find OFWs at malls and terminals, which used to teem with Filipino salesclerks and other workers.
Bello however stressed there would be no mass displacement of OFWs in the kingdom because Saudi nationals still prefer to hire Filipinos.
“It’s not displacement, it’s more on non-deployment. Those who are already (employed) won’t be affected because (Saudis) really prefer Filipinos over other nationalities,” Bello said.
Gulf states largely have been dependent on expatriates to power their economies, and a 2013 study has shown that almost half of Saudi Arabia’s workforce are foreign workers. The scenario is much worse in Qatar where 95 percent of its labor force are non-nationals; in the UAE with a 94 percent expatriate labor complement; 83 percent in Kuwait; 71 percent in Oman; and 64 percent in Bahrain. The Gulf governments have implemented their own labor nationalization schemes to absorb more of their citizens and curb unemployment, albeit at higher public costs.
For one, Kuwait’s public sector is on track to achieve a 100 percent Kuwaiti workforce but it could be at the expense largely of the Egyptian and the Filipino communities.
The Philippine government however is looking for alternative destinations for OFWs that would be affected by the labor nationalization programs of the Gulf countries, Bello said, noting that Germany and Israel were being considered.