COLOMBO: Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka signed on Tuesday a new agreement on the employment of workers, opening up more opportunities in the Kingdom for professionals from the crisis-hit island nation.
The Skill Verification Program aims to improve the professional competence of employees in the Saudi labor market, easing the recruitment process of skilled workers from Sri Lanka.
The agreement, signed by Sri Lanka’s Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission and Saudi Arabia’s Takamol, which operates under the Kingdom’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, covers 23 professions, including electricians and auto mechanics.
“This is good news to all Sri Lankans,” TVEC Director Dr. Lalithadheera K. Arachchige said during the signing ceremony in Colombo. “Their skills can be officially identified by the concerned Saudi authorities to provide them with suitable jobs.”
The deal is expected to give a boost to Sri Lanka’s manpower exports to the Kingdom.
“Under Vision 2030 of the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia needs a variety of skilled workers who would fit into various projects,” Khalid Hamoud Nasser Al-Dasam, the Saudi ambassador in Colombo, told Arab News on the sidelines of the event.
“This is going to be a major development in the annals of Saudi-Lanka bilateral relations.”
Sri Lanka has been seeking foreign employment opportunities for its professionals as it is facing its worst financial crisis since gaining independence in 1948 and is in desperate need of foreign currency. Only on Monday, the International Monetary Fund approved a $3 billion bailout loan for Colombo, but it will take time for the country to recover.
Many professionals from the South Asian country are currently working in Saudi Arabia without recognition of their professional certification, often enrolled in jobs below their skills. But that will change under the skill verification deal, as Saudi employers will recognize certificates issued by Sri Lanka’s TVEC.
“It will give them due recognition and due salary and due position,” Pakeer Mohideen Amza, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.
“It’s a long-felt need, and it’s going parallel to the objective of Sri Lanka to shift from quantitative employment to qualitative employment…This really will help to increase our foreign remittances.”
Around 150,000 Sri Lankan expats are employed in Saudi Arabia, about 70 percent of whom are unskilled.
Saudi Arabia is the job market with the most potential for Sri Lankans, according to the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies, which welcomed the latest development.
“Everyone knows that Sri Lanka is only famous for the unskilled people, not for skilled (workers), but we know that there are very skilled people,” ALFEA Secretary Mohamed Farook Mohamed Arshad told Arab News.
“The Skill Verification Program is very useful for that…We can market our skilled laborers to Saudi Arabia when this is implemented.”