DHAKA: Bangladeshi migrant workers in Saudi Arabia have lauded new labor reforms in the Kingdom easing contractual restrictions on foreign employees.
Saudi authorities recently announced that a seven-decade-old sponsorship system, known as kafala, was to be abolished.
The reforms, due to come into effect in March, are aimed at making the Saudi labor market more attractive by granting more than 10 million foreign workers the right to change jobs and leave the country without employers’ permission.
Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), told Arab News: “We welcome the decision of the Saudi government. It’s a very positive move. Now the workers can easily change their jobs which will definitely help them explore better opportunities in the job market of the Kingdom.”
He said that his organization was eagerly waiting to learn more about the new system and was looking forward to its implementation.
Saudi Arabia is the single largest destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers and more than 2 million of them are living in the Kingdom.
Every year, they send billions of dollars back to their home country. Remittances from Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia reached $4 billion in the last fiscal year, according to data from the Bangladeshi Bureau of Manpower, Employment, and Training (BMET).
Shariful Hasan, migration head at Bangladesh-based international development agency BRAC, told Arab News that the new system would make life easier for migrant workers.
“It’s obvious that migrant workers will be benefitted through the reformation of the kafala system,” he said.
Under the current kafala system, migrant workers are generally bound to one employer.
Bangladeshi workers praised the new system which will base the relationship between employers and workers on a standard contract certified by the government, and will allow workers to apply directly for services via an e-government portal, instead of a mandatory employers’ approval.
“My shop is not doing good business since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and I was planning to switch over the job. Now, I can take the decision on my own,” migrant worker Mohammed Hossain told Arab News.
Shams Joarder, who plans to work in Saudi Arabia, said the reform was a great relief as it would allow workers to search for new jobs on the expiry of their contracts while still residing in the Kingdom. “Now we can all change employer without any hassle,” he added.