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Sun 1 Feb 2015 02:12 PM

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GCC mulls regional strategy for hiring expat workers

Team of Gulf-wide senior officials set up to look into developing policy to tackle flows of foreign workers

GCC mulls regional strategy for hiring expat workers

A GGC-wide team of senior officials has been formed to look into developing a regional policy for hiring workers.

The team was formed following a meeting of the Federation of GCC Chambers in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, last week and will look at ways a regional policy could be implemented to help handle the in- and outflow of foreign workers in the region.

According to official estimates, there are around 18 million foreign workers in the GCC – with numbers rapidly on the rise. Quite which sectors were included in the estimates is unclear, Construction Week Online reported on Sunday.

Saad Nahar Al Baddah, chairman of the Foreign Recruitment Committee of Saudi Arabia said that there were a number of issues that needed addressing.

He said currently employers were faced with increasing recruitment fees, high salaries being demanded by some manpower exporting countries, faulty job contracts and a failure to give proper training to the newly recruited workers. He said defects in the recruitment system are causing problems to the employers as well as employees.

The team has been asked to come up with a unified contract that can be used as a guideline for employing workers. The team will also visit officials in key supply countries to discuss the proposals.

The Federation says a unified contract covering all GCC states would save each individual country running through the process.

It’s not the first time such a move has been mooted. GCC states had earlier discussed a proposal to develop a unified recruitment system for domestic helps, which reportedly was abandoned later.

Last week, Saudi Arabia said it was in the throes of lifting a seven year ban on Bangladeshi labourers from entering and working in the country.

The ban was put in place in 2008, and while official reasons suggested the kingdom had ‘met its quota’ of Bangladeshi workers, rumours also suggested that the shut-out had come after several reports surfaced linking them to criminal acts including theft, printing fake currency and running illegal businesses. No date was given as to when the ban would be lifted.

Saudi authorities last year said the ban would be lifted and, after a meeting between KSA labour minister Adel Fakeih and Bangladesh Minister for Expat Welfare and Overseas Employment Khandker Mosharraf Hossain on Sunday, the announcement was made.

Fakeih said that he was focused on hiring skilled workers, and that all prospective employees should undergo orientation programmes in Bangladesh and be skills tested to ensure they meet standards for their nominated vocations, before leaving.

Hossain said steps were already in place in Bangladesh to ensure workers leaving the country were ready for their new roles.

He said that 2.2 million Bangladeshi workers now have roles abroad. Recruitment to Saudi prior to the ban stood at around 150,000 people per year.