MANILA: The Philippines is looking to further tap into Saudi Arabia’s labor market and send more skilled Filipinos to the Kingdom, Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said on Tuesday, after talks with Saudi officials and the private sector.
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 Ople led an official delegation to Riyadh last week, where she met both officials and private sector players.
“I see exciting times ahead for our Filipino workers and also our partners overseas…When we were in Saudi Arabia, we were exploring the possibility of a special hiring program specifically to address the labor needs of Saudi Arabia,” Ople told reporters during the Asia-Gulf Cooperation Council Senior Officials’ Dialogue in Manila.
The Philippine delegation also discussed during the visit the possibility of starting a mass hiring program, which officials from both sides are scheduled to finalize next month.
“We spoke with the private sector, and they estimate the need for 1 million (Filipino workers),” Ople said.
“We in the department will have to look at…a special hiring program that would accommodate their needs while also scaling up our skills training.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, there were years in which over 1.5 million Filipinos would be working in the Kingdom, DMW Undersecretary Patricia Yvonne Caunan said during the presser with Ople.
“They are hopeful that we (will) go back to that, the normal number to them, which they are saying is 1 million skilled jobs for Filipinos in the tourism sector and hospitality industry,” she said, adding that the opportunities would be available also in the construction sector.