ISLAMABAD: Starting next month, Saudi Arabia will introduce a new skilled foreign manpower program that will eventually include Pakistan, a senior official at the Saudi labor ministry said this week.
Nayef Al-Omair, head of the vocational examination program at the Ministry of Labor, said on Tuesday in Riyadh that the ministry was categorizing the tasks and the structure of some professions for visa-issuing purposes.
Under the new policy, visas would be issued only after skill tests and the previous system would be gradually phased out.
The new scheme would be optional for one year starting December 2019 after which it would become compulsory, Al-Omair said. The new program would first be applied to manpower recruited from India due to its large size in the Saudi market.
Eventually, the program will cover seven countries, including India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Workers belonging to these states constitute 95 percent of professional manpower in the Kingdom’s local market.
Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.6 million Pakistani expats those have been a vital source of foreign remittances.
Last year the country received $21.8 billion in remittances out of which $5 billion were remitted by Pakistani nationals working in Kingdom.
According to the Pakistani ministry of finance, there was a major decline in manpower export to Saudi Arabia where only 100,910 emigrants proceeded for employment in 2018 as compared to 2017, a drop of 42,453 emigrants.
However, Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, special assistant to the Pakistani prime minister on overseas Pakistanis, said in an interview earlier this month that Saudi Arabia had agreed to increase the share of the Pakistani labor force in the multi-billion dollar New Taif City development.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have formed working groups to develop procedures for this transfer of manpower. Pakistani groups will visit the Kingdom in the coming months to finalize arrangements.