MANILA: The Philippines is discussing with Saudi Arabia a special hiring program for skilled Filipinos, the Department of Migrant Workers said on Friday, as it eyes particularly the booming tourism sector in the Kingdom.
More than 800,000 Philippine expats are already living and working in Saudi Arabia, which is their preferred destination in the Middle East.
Officials see even more employment opportunities in the Kingdom under its Vision 2030 economic diversification plan.
The Philippine government has been in talks with Saudi authorities and earlier this week, Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople met Saudi Human Resources and Social Development Minister Ahmed Al-Rajhi in Riyadh.
“We discussed the possibility of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia having a special hiring program for skilled Filipino workers,” Ople told reporters during Friday’s press briefing.
She said the focus would be on the hospitality sector — an industry that is booming in the Kingdom as the government plans to triple tourism employment to 1.6 million people and triple its contribution to the gross domestic product to 10 percent by 2030.
“They are embarking on expansion plans…They are expecting a huge demand, (especially) for their tourism sector,” Ople said, adding that the Department of Migrant Workers would work closely with the Philippine Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to develop a special hiring program to “meet the demands and requests” of the Saudi government and employers.
The Saudi human resources minister is scheduled to soon visit Manila for broader talks on worker exchanges and amendments to bilateral labor agreements.
“A team from his office will be coming to Manila next month to arrange the details of his visit and other issues like (the) special hiring program,” Ople said.
Saudi Arabia has been trying to improve the professional competence of employees in its labor market and regulate the quality of employment under Vision 2030. In 2021, it launched the Skill Verification Program for foreign employees already working in the Kingdom and those seeking employment but still residing in their home countries.
The program’s practical and written tests verify if workers have the required skills to carry out the jobs they were recruited for. The tests’ outcomes determine whether they can apply for a Saudi work visa.
Bilateral agreements for the implementation of the program are already in place with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which also are major contributors to the Saudi workforce.